Recently, I read an article about a growing trend among mothers: they regret ever having children. It’s not that these mothers are sad or overwhelmed from time to time because of the commitment it takes to raise children, nor are they simply fearful because of the responsibility. No, these particular mothers mourn having their already birthed children. They feel trapped. They hate it with everything within them. Their children aren’t seen only as a burden and interruption from life, their children are a mistake. Most of us, thankfully, aren’t where these mothers are, I’d imagine for many of us we fall somewhere in between worshipping our children and thinking they are the center of our lives and desiring more free time and rest for ourselves. We can empathize with the women in the article in regards to those moments of feeling overwhelmed, but most of us aren’t likely mourning our children. But, what if I said that our children are for our joy? Could we accept that? Do we believe that?
I remember a time I dropped my son off at his school and yelled my usual through the rolled down window, “I love you. Make good choices. Obey your teacher.” As I began to roll up the window and drive away, my little first grader took his small hand to his mouth and blew me a kiss.
It was like everything stopped at that moment.
I realized how quickly this season would pass. Would he blow me a kiss when he’s 16 years old? I don’t know. I blew him a kiss back and he waved to me, mouthing the words “Bye, Mom.” I was overwhelmed. I wished I could freeze that point in time.
I like to call my children sweet ragamuffins. Motherhood is challenging. My kids don’t obey me every time I ask them to do something. They are rambunctious, loud, and messy. And they are also sweet. They are gifts. Like many moms, I wouldn’t trade motherhood for anything. What I think we can so often forget, though, is that motherhood isn’t a task to be checked off like the laundry. It is a calling.
Maybe the word “calling” makes you want to run and hide. For many, “calling” can sound as if motherhood is your only identity, that it’s all encompassing and you will never get a break from your endless responsibilities. This is not true. You are likely called to be a wife and church member and friend as well (and the list could go on). So motherhood is not your only identity; it is, however, a part of your identity. And there is a weight to that. Mothers are more than just mothers, but we are never less. God’s word instructs us to train up our children in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6). I can’t think of a greater challenge given to us as parents. As one who is in the throes of raising and teaching young children, I am regularly reminded of my desperate need for Jesus.
Gifts to Enjoy
But I don’t think remembering the responsibility that we have to train our children is the best way we embrace and savor the short days we have with them. Remember that, “every good and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights…” (James 1:17). Our children are not tasks to complete, but gifts to enjoy. And we enjoy them by remembering that they are truly gifts from God. Yes, even when they stand in the hall refusing to put away their socks, or when they throw their cereal on the floor, or when they make it almost impossible to complete a trip to the grocery store. Those are trials mothers and fathers face weekly and yes, even these things are gifts.
Paul, instructing Timothy to challenge the rich to put their hope in God instead of their wealth, reminds us that it is God who provides all things for our enjoyment (1 Timothy 6:17). Our children aren’t meant to be checked off a list, they are to be delighted in. And as with every gift we receive and enjoy, we must be careful not to idolize our children. Only God should be worshipped. But what if we began to think of our kids as true gifts from God aimed at our enjoyment? Both in enjoyment of our kids and in God at work through them.
A Call to Treasure
It might seem like a funny connection, but I think of how much I enjoy looking at colorful birds at the zoo. They are exotic creatures, each with their unique beaks and a beautiful mosaic of feathers. The birds are a wonder of God’s creation, and he cares for them. But not more than he cares for us: “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 6:26).
In a similar way, I can think of many things I enjoy, but I value my kids more. I love looking into my kids’ precious eyes. I want to get into the world of their God-given personalities and take in their laughs and answer their questions. I want to enjoy them.
Maybe that’s precisely what the main thing of this parenting calling is all about. Maybe it’s not as much a call to train your kids as it is a call to train and treasure them.
Our children won’t be our little children forever. So, let’s enjoy and savor these days that God has given us. Our kids are his gifts to us, glimmers of his goodness, which leads us to say with C.S. Lewis, “What must be the quality of that Being whose far-off and momentary sparkles are like this!”
(Special note: Sign up for Enjoy2017, a free six-week live-it-out devotional based on my new book Enjoy. Hope you’ll join us!)
A version of this article first appeared on Desiring God.
Today, I’d like to take you to a few of my friend’s writing homes. They invited me in recently and I’d love to share our time with you.
First up, a podcast.
A friend listened to a podcast I was featured on and emailed me as a result saying, “I don’t even know you!” I laughed to myself and then responded with something like, “I know, I know. This interview aside, I tend to forget to share more about me beyond my general conversion story and current life.”
That podcast was Daniel Darling’s The Way Home and it was his 100th episode! Dan is also my boss at the ERLC, which made our time together that much more special and unique. If you’d like to get to know me a bit more, I’d say Dan did a brilliant job of pulling a few things out that I hadn’t been thinking about for a while. In the interview, I share about how I was once pro-choice and how the Lord changed my mind and heart on that, about what my 18 year old self thought she was going to be doing for the rest of her life, about race and my interracial marriage, and also a little about the books I’ve written. Hope you’ll check it out: http://bit.ly/2ikehVl
This week, I also had the pleasure of figuratively sitting down with my dear friend Melissa Kruger. Melissa is a women’s ministry leader, Bible teacher, and genuinely one of the most humble women I have gotten to know. She has such a pure desire to serve women—I’m grateful for her! And she was gracious to have me on her site Wit’s End. You can check out our interview here: http://bit.ly/2inYcBw
Thanks for letting me take you around the web to a few places I’ve been recently. Hope you enjoy these interviews.
I often wish I could pull up a seat with you. Metaphorically speaking, do you mind pulling up a seat with me and having some virtual coffee as I share? I often think and write about weakness and transparency. These are two topics that have always been important to me personally. I am painfully transparent (as my friends can attest) and incredibly weak. Weakness is one of those things most of us hate to admit, which is why I wish I could sit right there beside you. This winter, I was reminded of a time in life when I experienced great weakness and imagined sharing about it might encourage you during these long winter days.
When I moved to the Nashville area, I experienced a weariness I’d never quite felt before. My weariness could easily have been attributed to a quick move in a short period of time. The trouble was, it didn’t lift. My weariness stayed around for a year. I had never experienced a season of despondency like that, but as I think back, despondency was exactly what I was battling. I had moments where I lacked joy, even seemed hopeless, and lacked motivation. I believe God brings us through various seasons for a purpose and doesn’t waste trials, even ones where circumstances (like mine) were seemingly okay. I do believe He is good and faithful with all my heart—He had a good purpose in that season of life for me.
As odd as this next line might sound, I was aware during those darks days that God had never been nearer to me. That is, I sensed His nearness more than ever. I get why the Psalmist cried out with tears, he knew God would answer with His presence (Psalm 16:11, Psalm 42: 3,5). My despondency was not lifting, but God was reminding me through His Word and through sweet books like Not By Sight by Jon Bloom that he is there, even during those hard moments.
God seemed more real to me over those months of despair than I could remember in many joy-filled days. There was actually a part of me that didn’t want that time to end because I was so desperate for Him. As I wrote in my new book, Enjoy, sometimes God lets us come to the end of ourselves in order for us to enjoy more of him.
So, perhaps you, too, are struggling with a season of despondency and like it was for me, this is new to you. Or maybe you’ve been in this season for a long time. I can’t tell you how long it will last. I have no desire to give you a false hope. But maybe knowing that you aren’t alone will help. You aren’t alone, many people struggle with seasons like ours. And you aren’t alone, there is a real, present hope—His name is Jesus and God is with you. And when we come to an end of ourselves, when everything is failing within and around us, we realize that nothing but God can satisfy the longings in our soul. We realize the God is all we have and all we truly need:
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
For behold, those who are far from you shall perish;
you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you.
But for me it is good to be near God;
I have made the Lord GOD my refuge,
that I may tell of all your works. –Psalm 73:25-28
Reflecting on this passage of Psalms in their book The Songs of Jesus, Tim and Kathy Keller shared this beautiful prayer: “Lord, I thank you for how suffering drives me like a nail deeper into your love. It is not my earthly joys but my griefs that show me your grace is enough.” During your dark hour, know that God’s grace is enough for you. He is with you, draw near to him. Sing out to the Lord, “Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
’Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.”
It isn’t a secret, 2016 was a discouraging year for many. It brought to light the deep divisions that exist in our culture—politically, racially, and socially. But the difficulty of the year wasn’t in the abstract or impersonal. There are a number of my friends who are trying to pick up the pieces of a shattered and broken year. And the ups and downs of our individual circumstances can also tempt us to discouragement, complaining, and division.
Is it truly possible to be sorrowful, yet always rejoicing? Can we really be thankful in all circumstances? And, finally, can this year be markedly different than last?
I believe, by the power and grace of God, our answers to these questions can be yes. My hope and prayer is that over this next year you and I will learn the art of contentment and joy in the Lord. That’s why I’d like to invite you to practically put your faith into action with Enjoy2017.
Enjoy2017 is an invitation to look beyond these circumstances and, instead, look to the Giver of the good gifts we enjoy every day with gratitude and joy together.
I personally want to invite you to join me for Enjoy2017—a free, 6-week, live-it-out devotional, delivered right to your inbox. Beginning January 9th, you will be encouraged and challenged as you grow in your enjoyment of the people God has put into your life, the work he has given you to do, the rest he offers you, the resources he’s entrusted to you, and ultimately our good Giver himself.
Enjoy2017 is designed to be lived out both on and offline—it’s a challenge for you to implement what you’re learning in your life, and to invite others to join in this journey with you. My hope and prayer is that our six weeks together is just the beginning of a lifestyle of enjoyment that endures beyond 2017.
Here are several ways you can participate:
- Subscribe to a free 6-week email-devotional. You will receive a short devotional every Monday for six weeks, including three questions and suggestions for how you can put your faith into action. Please note: If you are a part of my main mailing list, you still must sign up for this separate email list to receive the devotionals and updates.
- Do the action items. My heart is for you to not only learn about enjoying God and all he’s given you, but to actively enjoy God and his gifts each and every day.
- Ask a friend, a group of friends, or your small group to join you. We’re better together! It will be fun to discuss, share, and live out not only what God is doing in your life, but also in the lives of those you love.
- Consider creatively sharing what God is doing in your life through this project online. Share a phrase, a story, Scripture, a picture, or a quote from the devotional. Tag it with #Enjoy2017 on facebook, twitter, or instagram so we can be encouraged by one another on this journey together.
- Tell others about #Enjoy2017! Below you will find shareable quotes and images. Feel free to use these on any of your social media accounts to help get the word out.
I look forward to spending these six weeks with you. Don’t settle for enjoying 2017 in theory, let’s live it out.
Remember to head on over to the Enjoy2017 page and sign up!
Whether it’s our own home, a childhood home, or the welcoming home of friends, the holidays are typically spent in homes. These can be lovely homes, decorated to the max, ushering in the holiday season. They can be filled with great joys and holiday spirit, as well as the smell of roasts and cinnamon spice in the air. But we know that homes may also be filled with loneliness and grief, sorrows and conflict. And, at the end of the day, the homes empty, the decorations come down, the gifts get stored and we can be left feeling a bit empty as a result. The holidays, whether filled with joy or difficulty, have an ending and often leave us longing for more.
I believe part of that longing and emptiness is because we know that the wonder of the holidays is only a small glimpse, a foretaste of our forever homes and our forever celebration. I think we can be left feeling empty because we have eternity planted on our hearts (Eccl. 3:11). We know that there’s something better. Something lasting. This acknowledgement of the greater gift shouldn’t, however, keep us from celebrating during the holidays. On the contrary, our understanding that this is not our home motivates us to celebrate.
As we anticipate the coming of Immanuel this holiday season, let us also remember that Jesus will come again. Christmas morning is not the end of the story. We know that Easter is coming and, after Easter, we know that our Savior is returning for His Bride! The day after Christmas doesn’t have to be a day of despondent longing—it can be a day of quiet waiting. Our hearts can be at peace because we know that God is making all things new.
That longing you may feel is evidence of a better and true citizenship; we are all eagerly waiting until the day of our Savior’s return. The Apostle Paul wrote of this longing as he encouraged the Philippian church to imitate those walking in the faith: “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself” (Phil. 3:20). When our eyes are fixed on eternity, we can run the race with endurance. We know that he will transform us into His likeness. We know that every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord. Our hope, our only hope, is to be found in Him. “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him” (Heb. 9:27-28). Oh, what good news. Jesus has made a way and it started in a manger. He died in our place and will return to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.
We know that the holidays aren’t all there is. So, as you celebrate this season, rejoice knowing that when the excitement of the holidays dies away, the forever celebration awaits you. And if you are discouraged this season, know that your longing will one day be fulfilled as you are consummated to your Savior. Forever—this is forever.
Further Thoughts for Your Reflection:
- How do you typically feel leading up to Christmas? What about afterwards? How does the reality of Jesus’ return impact those feelings?
- Think of someone – family member, friend, neighbor – who you know is left longing deeply because of the holiday season. Encourage them with words or a note about the truth of our eternal home. Or maybe use the opportunity to share the gospel if they don’t know Christ.
- Jesus came to earth out of his deep love to pursue us. Who’s in your life that you could pursue out of love? What could you do to make sure they know of your love for them?
- Spend some time writing out what it means to have your true citizenship in Heaven. Then thank the Father for this remarkable gift through Christ.
Enjoy is out! Learn more here.