It was Valentine’s Day. I held my husband’s hand with nervous excitement as we entered the ultrasound room. I had already heard our baby’s heartbeat five weeks earlier, but now, at 13 weeks, we would both get to see our precious child. It took only a few seconds of the ultrasound technician’s silence to confirm my deepest fears. Tears started streaming down my face before she even said anything. And then she said those two dreaded words, “I’m sorry.” I looked at Grant and together we stared at our child, frozen in time. It seemed we had come so far, but this was as far as we would go. As I looked longingly at the sweet frame of our little one whom we would never get to meet on this earth, I found myself praying silently, “Jesus, this is why you came to die. This death. This hurt. This pain. This is why.”
It has been two years since Grant and I sold our yellow house and moved into an apartment while he is attending seminary. Two years, and I’m pretty sure our living room area alone has been rearranged at least 15 different ways. Grant will often walk in the door from work only hours later to say, “Is something different in here?” Because our space is small, it has made me even more conscious of being intentional about every piece of furniture in our home and trying to figure out creative ways to make it look homey. I often find satisfaction after making something old look new, but there have been many times when I have felt discouraged. Things often do not look the way I want them to and I run out of storage space for everyday items. And it’s not just the running and organizing of our home that can tempt me to be discouraged, there are tasks that I do not accomplish as timely or as often as I would like in any given day. I was feeling this particular discouragement one evening as I was cleaning the kitchen when Grant noticed my quietness, “GraceAnna, what’s the matter?” Before I could even think, overly dramatic words spilled out, “Sometimes, I feel like I’m failing.” As I spoke, my unaccomplished tasks loomed large before me. “GraceAnna,” Grant replied as he stopped my working hands, “When you are feeling this way you need to remember to ask yourself, ‘Am I doing what God has called me to do?’” I knew the answer all too well to that question and it immediately brought my little pity party into the light of truth. As Grant helped me finish cleaning, I was reminded how easy it is to get my priorities mixed up or desire to do more than God called me to do.
Remind Me of the Truth
We live in a world as women where we are constantly being bombarded with images and ideas of more things we can accomplish: Run a small business, further your education, start an Etsy shop, repaint the living room, write a blogpost, be more artistic, creative, thrifty, adventurous, and for goodness sake, be beautiful while you are at it in case you need to snap a selfie! Aspirations are a good thing and there’s nothing honorable or biblical about being unproductive or lazy. But what I’ve discovered is that while there are many voices sharing ideas of more things I can do, there are far fewer voices reminding me of the truth of who God wants me to be.
Love your husband.
Love your children.
Be a worker at home.
Submit to your husband.
Allow God’s Word to be honored through your obedience.
These seemingly forgotten words do not burden me with more I should add on to what I am already doing. No, His Words strip away my false ideas of accomplishment and remind me that His ways are so much higher than my ways (Is 55:9). His Truth untangles the priorities on my to-do list and encourages me to be the kind of woman He wants me to be. His Word shows me what is truly valuable in this life. The Proverbs 31 woman is a beautiful picture of a busy and productive woman. She did so much and she was such a blessing to everyone. But it can be tempting to get caught up in the specific actions she was completing instead of seeing what I think the Lord wants us to see about this woman. It was not all the things she did that was the point, it was who she was. She was a woman of character. She loved her God and her family and everything she did flowed out of that heart.
I love Jeremiah 6:16 which says:
Thus says the LORD: “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.
Rest. Not a to-do list. Not self-deprecation or a frenzied desire to do more. His ways bring the heart rest.
Am I Doing What God Has Called Me To Do?
I’m so thankful that at the end of a long day I don’t have to evaluate my performance based on all the things I did or did not accomplish. Instead, I can pray, “Lord am I being faithful to what You have called me to do?” His commands for me are not burdensome. They look a lot like washing my husband’s dirty laundry, making his lunch, and letting him know how much I love him. It looks like teaching my three year old how to do a chore and training my littlest not to whine. It means enjoying time at the park with them knowing that they are the work God has called me to. God’s ways are good ways, they are beautiful, but they are also simple. His Word keeps me focused on His calling for me that doesn’t start or end with the colors meshing in my living room. Does not wisdom call and understanding lift up her voice? In a world that is shouting loudly about how I should invest my time, I want to ponder the ancient paths and listen to His voice above all others. His Word reminds me that faithfulness cannot be measured by a to-do list or captured in a photograph. They are the old paths, but they are the good ones.
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference. ~Robert Frost
12.5 hours to be exact. Oh, but that was just the actual driving part. 12. 5 hours if someone were to drive straight without getting stuck in traffic or stopping to use the bathroom or needing items such as food and water.
Add those things plus two small children and Grant and I were looking at a much longer drive. More like 16 hours or longer. Thankfully we whittled it down to 14 hours after finally finding a route around construction and making as little stops as possible.
But nevertheless, we found ourselves driving on the interstate, late into the night, with two little people in the backseat who don’t sleep very well sitting straight up in car seats. Go figure?
I was feeling the tension rise in my soul as the road seemed to stretch continually before us and the tears seemed to escalate in the backseat.
It also probably didn’t help that I was 8 weeks pregnant and in the thick of “morning” sickness.
Nor did it help that we left way later than planned because of a necessary doctor’s appointment.
These things were working against me.
Including the stop for gas we had to make around 11pm when the girls were soundly sleeping.
Were soundly sleeping.
But now there was crying in the backseat and we were only in Texarkana.
Thanks to a husband who knows how to make us both laugh and stay awake in the middle of the night on a quiet interstate, we finally made it.
But when I woke the next morning, I felt tired.
I went into the bathroom, closed the door, and looked up my “verse of the day” on my phone:
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Thessalonians 5:16-18
I didn’t feel a lot of happiness in that moment as the “morning” sickness started returning, but those words brought joy to my soul.
I thought about all the things the day before that had been out of my mothering control. The simplicity of the truth before me brought conviction and hope.
This was God’s will for me in Christ Jesus.
Dear Mom, Your Kids Are Fine
In motherhood, there are many things I cannot control. Even though I try to keep my children on consistent and healthy routines, there are times when plans and intentions and attitudes (including my own) fail.
I’ve found that the more I try to rely on my own strength instead of leaning on the Lord, the more I end up feeling defeated.
As mothers, we have all felt exasperated or defeated from time to time. The times when we are traveling and things are all out of whack or our day goes completely NOT as planned and we feel the anxiety rising in our souls.
As I grow as a mom, my own mother’s words often ring in my ears. “GraceAnna, they are fine.” And in 99% of everyday cases, this is true.
My kids skipped their nap. They are fine. My kids had chocolate. Three times. They are fine. My kids went to bed really late and instead of sleeping in they woke up early. They are fine. My kids are whining in the backseat because they’ve been sitting there a while. They are fine.
There are many scenarios every week when as a mom I can be tempted to worry and fret, when, majority of the time, my children are just fine.
The real question is: Mom, are you fine?
Dear Mom, Give Thanks
I knew it was no accident that morning standing alone in the dark bathroom that my “verse of the day” was 1 Thess 5:16-18. It was the Lord speaking to me: “GraceAnna, rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (emphasis mine).
God’s Word jolted me out of my self-sufficient attitude and turned my heart to my Savior. His Word was a spring of water in a dry place and a reminder that I don’t have to do this on my own. He will help me.
God’s will for me was not to make sure my children never experience any disruption in their little lives or make sure they always keep their shoes on in public places.
God’s will for me right now is to rejoice, pray, and give thanks.
Lord, thank you for giving me these children. What a gift!
Lord, I need your right now.
Lord, thank you for this situation that gives me an opportunity to teach my child about you (and teaches me to call to you for help!).
Lord, You are good.
These aren’t “super spiritual” prayers. These are the prayers of a mom who realizes she cannot mother in her own strength. These are the prayers of a mom who loves Jesus.
Dear Mom, there are more books out there than you have time to read on parenting. And many are so very helpful. But remember what He has said:
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9
“The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes me feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go to the heights.” Habakkuk 3:19
His Words are truth and they are life.
Rejoice. Pray. Give thanks.
For this, young mother, is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.
This summer, I have a new-found love for a couple books that I have really struggled through in the past.
Leviticus and Numbers.
I think my understanding and new appreciation for these books began in April when Grant and I attended T4G and I heard this message by Ligon Duncan on Numbers 5.
There are a handful of sermons that I know almost by heart because God has used them so profoundly to impact me.
This message on Numbers immediately became one of them. I thought about it for days afterward and four months later I am still thinking about it.
If I could point to one thing that has helped me during my journey of studying Old Testament books, I would say it is asking myself the simple question, “How does this point to Christ?”
When I began asking this question, I started seeing more than difficult laws, strange rituals, and scary skin conditions…I started seeing Jesus.
Jen Wilkin, in her new book, Women of the Word, discusses many helpful principles for how we should approach our study of the Bible.
She rightly points out the importance of understanding the “Big Story” of the Bible as we study individual books of the Bible.
“Without the bigger picture, we can only gain a partial appreciation of what any snapshot is telling us. From Genesis to Revelation the Bible is telling us about the rule and reign of God.”
Perspective is so crucial to life. It matters in singleness, marriage, in mothering.
It’s typically pretty easy to distinguish those who have perspective and those who do not. Without perspective we can quickly get lost in the loneliness, the mundane, and the trials.
Perspective changes everything.
The same is true in our study of Scripture. Without the proper context, I have gotten lost in many passages that are actually amazingly rich and deep.
Of course, this is why it’s important to read through the Old and New Testaments, to meditate on the Psalms and learn from the Prophets…because then we began to see how all of Scripture fits together and how every single book is pointing to Jesus.
When I’m reading through a difficult book, I like to have my study Bible and a good commentary handy when I get lost or confused. I also try to listen to sermons that correspond with what I am studying in Scripture. And it sure is nice having a seminary husband to ask difficult questions and share what I am learning.
This summer, Leviticus and Numbers have taught me so much about the holiness of God, the vileness of my own sin, and most of all the love of Jesus.
The sinless One, touching the unclean and making them clean.
Jesus, cleansing me.
The Gospel in Leviticus and Numbers…one of my greatest joys this summer of 2014.
What is the Lord teaching you through His Word this summer?
And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
I really enjoyed this short video of Kristie Anyabwile as she shares how God used the book of Leviticus in her life.
One of my greatest desires, besides being a godly wife to Grant and mother to my girls, is to be a woman who knows and loves the Word of God. Without nourishment from God’s Word, my soul dries up and I cannot be the woman, much less the wife and mom or friend that God intended me to be. His Word is life.
In Psalm 119:97, David says, “Oh how I love your law, it is my meditation all the day!”
As my daily schedule has gotten busier with a three year old and a one year old, I’ve had to figure out how to make my time with the Lord a priority while also remembering that God knows my heart and He is the One who called me to this task of motherhood.
What I’ve realized is that there is usually always time in my day to spend in His Word. It’s not always the time I would choose or as long as I would like,but God is faithful to provide the time I need even though it often means doing the next pile of laundry tomorrow or refusing to waste time doing something else.
And time with the Lord never disappoints. It’s life-giving, soul-stirring, humbling, convicting, encouraging…and with the Psalmist I find myself saying, Oh, how I love Your law!
I wanted to share here a post I wrote for True Woman on what the Lord is teaching me about making time to spend in His Word. This post is geared for moms of very little ones. Children who aren’t quite old enough be trained to quietly stay in their rooms or wait on breakfast and who still need a diaper change. I hope it encourages you!
I have also found this Bible from John MacArthur to be very helpful for keeping on track with daily Bible reading during busy times (along with my study Bible).
Lastly, I wanted to encourage you to join me for Women of the Word Month!
During the month of July, Crossway.org will be hosting Women of the Word Month—a 31-day online campaign designed to encourage women to get in the Word and stay in the Word during the busy days of summer.
Timed with the publication of two important new resources from Crossway—Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin and the ESV Women’s Devotional Bible—the campaign will feature a daily email devotional, as well as practical blog posts and weekly video interviews with gifted Bible teachers. Contributors include Jen Wilkin, Kathy Keller, Elyse Fitzpatrick, Gloria Furman, Paul David Tripp, Kristyn Getty, and more.
If you are looking for some helpful ways to get in the Word and stay in the Word this summer, sign up and read more about it here.
When it comes to mothering, my heart always welcomes refreshment!
And the only true refreshment comes from God’s Word, which I know my mom will be faithfully teaching today.
I wish I could be there but I am thankful that technology allows me to watch it from right where I am.
Here is the schedule:
1st session (9am EST): Refreshing Our Perspective
2nd session: Captivating Their Hearts
(Coffee break – screen will be blank during this time)
3rd session: Receiving His Blessing (and dealing with our mistakes)
4th session: Walking with Him, Faith in the Everyday Moments
(Sessions will end at lunch).
Watch LIVE http://www.cbcofbeaufort.org
Our weekly radio program, Mothering from the Heart, is on break for the summer. You can “like” the Mothering from the Heart Facebook page for frequent updates and information regarding when we will be back live again.
After God’s creation recorded in the book of Genesis, He used one word to describe His glorious handiwork, “good.”
And that is just what God’s design for male and female is . . .nothing short of good.
Grant and I were excited to contribute a chapter on purity.
Don’t miss John Piper’s beautiful foreword. It’s an encouraging read for my generation.
Christian complementarity is the conviction that God created men and women as his image-bearers — equal in dignity and distinct in role.
Contrary to popular opinion, the Scripture’s distinctive roles for men and women are not the cultural fads of a bygone era, but integral aspects of God’s good design for humanity, and therefore integral aspects toward humanity’s end — to glorify God by enjoying him forever.
“He looks like a Greek god,” my newly made college girlfriend leaned over and whispered in my ear. We were in a packed room of students at a campus ministry event. It was the first week of classes, which meant it was the first week of everything under the sun. Every college group on campus was holding events with lots of free food, vying for the attention of all the new and impressionable freshmen. For many of them, college meant ultimate freedom. No rules, just a vast sea of possibilities. There was an excitement in the air, and I felt it too. I wanted to get involved in campus life. I wanted to make new friends. I wanted to meet students who had a genuine love for the Lord.
My first week in college would be the beginning of friendships with students who loved the Lord. Not because their parents made them go to church or because they were playing a religious game, but out of their genuine love for Christ. This aspect of college would turn out to be one of the things I loved most about my time at Clemson – the friendships I made with fellow believers. As I look back on that time, I’m more convinced than ever that college is a time that reveals the true character of young men and women. Elisabeth Elliot when reflecting back on her college days at Wheaton said, “There is no better place than the college campus to observe what a man or woman is made of.” High school students who were only involved in church or youth group because they had to be would either be awakened to their spiritual apathy or they would slowly drift away. There was no one to hide behind. Decisions about where one stood on all issues of faith and morality would be tested. And while the “Bible belt” was still full of those who went to church on Sunday but forgot His name during the week, college was a testing ground for the young. This I would come to understand as my own faith was put to the test.
Growing up in a ministry home, I’d already experienced a little of the cost that comes with following Christ. Even though I had some great friendships, I often felt on the outside because I was the “pastor’s kid.” But I think this is also true for the high school student in the public or private school who is living for Jesus. It’s not so much about being a “PK” as it is about being a true son or daughter of Christ. All of us face moments or even lifelong trials where identification with Jesus alienates us. Jesus said, “A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you (John 15:20).” I’m often reminded even now that these brief moments of suffering or alienation are offered up to the One who “did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all (Romans 8:32).”
The young person who has their hope set on Jesus has an anchor that holds strong in the face of temptation. He or she doesn’t have to crumble or give in to the enticements of the world. But no one, including the college student, can live the Christian life in isolation. For me, the college campus would be a place where I would bond with other believers and make friendships that pointed me toward Christ.
“Greek god? ” her words took me off guard. We were at a Christian college gathering after all! My eyes began searching the crowd. “Right there, see him!” Oh I saw him now. I wonder what kind of guy he is? I found myself thinking. As my mind drifted, the speaker at the event came up and asked us to pull out our Bibles. I spent the next hour vigorously taking notes, my heart filling up with gratitude that I’d already found a place I felt I belonged.
to be continued…
Personal Reflection Questions
I spend my days teaching a three year old and a one year old.
“Say, ‘Yes Ma’am.’”
“Honey, hold my hand.”
“Don’t whine. Mommy doesn’t respond to whining.”
We work on listening, sharing, being sweet, and first time obedience around here. No, I don’t count to three (“Oneeeee, twooooo, I’m almost to three!”). But I’ve had my share of repeating a command three times, so I might as well have been counting.
My heart has been overjoyed by the sweetness and love from my little girls.
“Mom, I love you so much. You’re my mother.”
“Mom, I obey.”
“Here you go, Evie, you can play with it.”
And my heart has been overwhelmed and frustrated by bickering, delayed obedience, and whiny attitudes.
Some days are smooth sailing, and others are like charting through rough waters.
In all of these moments, I long for obedient children. Who doesn’t?
Obedient children are like fresh produce in a well tended garden.
They are joy (Proverbs 15:20).
But as much as I desire my children to obey me the first time I call, I want to always long for heart change even more.
I want to teach them the Gospel every. single. day.
“Honey, you are a sinner, that’s why it’s hard for you to obey. But Jesus came to die for sin. He died for Mommy’s sin.”
Because real fruit is more than “Yes ma’am and No sir.” It goes much deeper than that.
It’s a heart that’s been completely changed by God. A heart that loves God. And even a young child can begin to understand what that means.
My three and one year old don’t comprehend the Gospel. But every time I teach them the importance of “Obeying Mommy,” I want to pray just as earnestly that one day they will.
That one day they will understand that Someone obeyed perfectly for all the times they did not.
That Someone never showed disrespect to His Mommy, was unkind to His sister, and He always obeyed the first time.
My children need rules. They need to understand there are consequences for sinful actions. They need the Law.
Because it is the Law that drives us to grace (Gal 3:24).
Generally speaking, the Law is when Scripture says “Do,” and the Gospel is when Scripture says “Done.”
It is the Law that shows me my failure, my selfishness, and my inability to love God from a pure heart.
It is the Law that drives me to the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ.
And it is the Law, as I stand on grace, that helps me to become more like Christ.
I obey the Law because my heart and soul believe the Gospel.
Without the Law, I wouldn’t understand how beautiful the Good News is.
We used to sing a song in Sunday School growing up,
Good News! Good News!
Christ died for me,
Good News! Good News!
If I believe,
Good News! Good News!
I’m saved eternally,
That’s wonderful, extra, Good News!
Tomorrow, I will teach my children to obey. I will tell them what the Bible says is right and wrong. But then I will share the Gospel with them.
And even in the hardest of moments, that’s wonderful, extra, good news.
Top photo courtesy of my dear friend, Amy Grimme.
For those of you who appreciate the ministry of The Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood, the videos of the entire conference are now available on CBMW’s website! I am very grateful for this organization and I hope you will find these videos encouraging and clarifying to your own understanding of manhood and womanhood. Here are a few words regarding the conference from CBMW’s Executive Director, Owen Strachan:
We recently held our first CBMW National Conference in conjunction with the 2014 Together for the Gospel conference. We wanted to present an event that would be gospel-focused, positive, and exciting.
These were our starting points, but we honestly didn’t know what to expect. We thought that we might have 500 people. Then people started signing up, and kept signing up. So we went back to the book publishers that were among our event sponsors and asked them to greatly increase the amount of books that they were giving, and they did. Then even more people signed up, so we went back to the publishers one more time, and they were gracious to give even more books. Finally the day of the conference came, and God brought close to 1,500 people. We sold every single seat and then several dozen “standing room only” seats. Wow!
We decided that we would feature an unusual format for these talks. They would be short, sharp, and “TED”-like, long enough to argue a point, but short enough to progress through an extremely gifted platform of speakers in a short amount of time. We hope these videos will not only enrich your life, but that you share them with many others as well (feel free to host 1-2 on your site and direct folks to this page for the full treasure trove). Thanks again for your interest.
Please note, by the way, that we are able to make this content available for free thanks to the generous gift of complementarian churches, organizations, and individuals. We would love your support of our ongoing work to provide gospel-driven resources to God’s people.
Also: keep your eyes peeled for an upcoming eBook we at CBMW are doing with the good folks at Desiring God Ministries. We’re really, really excited about this project!
I moderated a women’s panel at the conference and had the privilege of hearing first hand from Candice Watters, Kristie Anyabwile, Melissa Kruger, Trillia Newbell, and Jodi Ware. I have included our panel discussion below. You can find the remaining talks given by Dr. Ligon Duncan, Dr. Russell Moore, Kevin DeYoung, Eric Mason, Dr. John Piper, Dr. Danny Akin, Dr. Albert Mohler, and Dr. David Platt here.