02 Jan 2013

The Gospel according to mommy bloggers: the great confession

I’ve been thinking about this place and what I write here and why I write so much about motherhood. You may not know this about me, but for most of my life I was determined to avoid motherhood at all costs. Peter married me knowing this. I had all kinds of confused junk I was sorting through and thankfully for me both Pete and Jesus loved me just the way I was.

But here’s the thing – God has since called me to mothers. God has commissioned me to you, precious been-up-since-4am-can’t-remember-when-last-I-went-to-the-bathroom-alone readers.


This coming from the girl who trained as a human rights lawyer and lived and worked in Ukraine for two and a half years combating human trafficking and spending day in and day out with its victims. This from the girl who comes from South Africa where her parents are plowing their lives into the orphan and HIV crisis. This from the girl who thought she would spend her law degree in human rights tribunals advocating for one group of women (the kind we meet on Compassion International trips) and for whom God has channeled all that passion into advocating for another, no less important group (the mostly suburban moms I write to and encourage on this blog).

Becoming a mother has been the most profound faith journey of my life. It teaches sacrifice and selflessness and breathes life into Jesus truths like nothing else I have ever encountered. I am convinced that encouraging people to become better parents goes hand in hand with encouraging people to genuinely and truly pursue God. They’re not in competition with one another, I think they’re designed to inform each other.

What pastor could possibly ask a mother to divorce her battle with temper and frustration from her daily challenge of raising a willful toddler. This is the heart of where Jesus meets us – through our kids. And I am convinced that the best way for any leader or influencer to connect with a population group who drives the Internet’s massive percentages of mommy blogs is to understand our heart cry. We are hungry for advice and encouragement on how to parent because we know how closely related it is to how we believe.

When I am learning how to like my 4 year old – the post I receive the most email on – I have been the closest to the Holy Spirit, done the most work, the most frequent fasting, the most desperate research of Scripture, the most midnight prayers. Motherhood calls me to Christ. I hear his voice at 2am. I walk the halls with Him and know He sings over me when I’m cleaning up vomit.

Lines in the sand that divide “‘serious’ theology from ‘non-substantive’ topics like parenting, homemaking, and relationships” (i.e. mommy blogging) are the house that has no foundation and must surely come crashing down.

Because of course in real life everything – everything that has breath – is a cry to bring us back to the Creator.  God calls us each through unique avenues of life and for mothers, more often than not, His voice is heard loudest through our children.

Hannah must be the poster child for this.

Her entire faith journey was a reflection of her desperate struggle to be a mother – influencing even her annual temple pilgrimages so badly that she would have preferred to stay home. And when she is wretched and torn up about it she takes her identity as non-mother to the one most able to influence it – the Creator.

She takes it into the Temple. She pours it all out – her family priorities and her faith and her barrenness and her rival’s taunts – she lays it low to the only one who can do anything about it. And I love so much the Message translation of God’s reaction to Hannah’s prayer:

“Up before dawn, they worshiped God and returned home to Ramah. Elkanah slept with Hannah his wife, and God began making the necessary arrangements in response to what she had asked.”
I Samuel 1:19.

Oh how I love the God that plans and makes arrangements in response to the cry of a mother who spends all day long making plans and arrangements. Who understands that our identity and our faith are born in new ways through our motherhood. And God meets her there. Her genuine and passionate pursuit of God is as a direct result of her felt need.

More and more my children are my gospel in the sense that they teach, they reveal Christ to me. And if you haven’t read it, then Sacred Parenting: How Raising Children Shapes Our Souls is one of my favorite books to recommend on the topic. In it Gary Thomas says,

“Let’s admit that family life tires us as perhaps nothing else does; but let’s also accept that, for most of us, this is God’s call and part of his plan to perfect us.

Once we realize that we are sinners, that the children God has given us are sinners, and that together, as a family, we are to grow toward God, then family life takes on an entirely new purpose and context.

It becomes  a sacred enterprise when we finally understand that God can baptize dirty diapers, toddlers’ tantrums, and teenager’s silence in order to transform us into people who more closely resemble Jesus Christ.”
~from Chapter 1, p. 17.

My identity as a mother is so profoundly connected to my identity in Christ I would be hard-pressed to separate the two. I could check the box that says “Jesus is my identity” because I know I’m supposed to. Or I could tell the truth and check the box that says “mother” because that is the identity where I meet Jesus on a daily, grindingly hard, desperately beautiful basis.

And so I keep coming back here with words about motherhood. I show up with my stories about sleep deprivation, frustrated four-year-olds and my constant wrestle with trying to make a home out of a house that is not my own. This is my truth. And I promise to keep on telling it, this love story. Of how Jesus would have loved me the same whether I had children or not. But how He is remaking me day in and day out through this gift that He saved till last.

So come back tomorrow. And the day after. And I will still be here, unwrapping, unwrapping, unwrapping all this crawling, toddling, laughing, crying extraordinarily sacred ordinary.

Photos thanks to my friend Mallory.

Comments

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  1. 1

    What a beautiful post. Yes, parenting has profoundly impacted my walk with Christ in such a beautiful way.

    I loved what you wrote: “God calls us each through unique avenues of life and for mothers, more often than not, His voice is heard loudest through our children.”

    I’m so thankful that He uses each unique season that we are in to grow us, refine us, work through us to reach others and in all this draw us into intimate communion with Him! Oh how blessed we are to walk with Him and have the opportunity to 24-7 disciple these little people He’s placed in our lives!

  2. 2

    Thank you for the work you do, the words you write and the way you tirelessly point to Jesus.

    Finding Him in the household chaos is very often like trying to find the needle in a haystack. But when you do, that needle suddently seems like the pearl of great price! It’s great to be encouraged by like-minded followers.

  3. 4

    I never knew your own background before, Lisa-Jo. This is a beautiful “apologetic” for why you write to mothers and a blessing to read.

    I’ve never before been faced with needing to grasp something day in and day out as I do with linking my faith to my motherhood. This is the ground He’s given me to learn to die to myself, to receive grace, to extend it without being stingy. I can already sense I’m going to need to grasp that truth hard in this coming year, so I certainly will be coming back!

  4. 5

    Absolutely gorgeous, Lisa Jo. And so very true – mothering is where the rubber meets the road in every single way I can think of. Thank you for being the fearless champion of all things maternal and for helping all of us to focus on the incarnational aspects of this calling/responsibility/ role/burden/joy/gift. Love this, love you even more.

  5. 6

    You speak so beautifully for all of our challenges as mothers. Thank you for staying up late, getting up early and taking time away from your family to encourage us.

  6. 8

    I love your heart for mothers, Lisa-Jo. You write in such an accessible and charming way about the struggles that so many mothers and women face. Thank you.

  7. 9

    “She shall be saved in childbearing if they continue…” I often hear people ask what this verse means, but they are rarely women who have experienced years of mothering. It is difficult to explain, but if one has successfully raised faithful children, no explanation is necessary.

  8. 10

    Thank you, so, for this post today, Lisa Jo! This line right here jumped off the screen at me (really, it did!) “Becoming a mother has been the most profound faith journey of my life. It teaches sacrifice and selflessness and breathes life into Jesus truths like nothing else I have ever encountered…” A gorgeous and fitting reminder/encouragement for those of us who come back day and after day and travel this journey with you! I, for one, am so glad that God had plans and made arrangements to turn your heart towards us mamas in the trenches. Oh yes!

    • 11

      Yes, it’s been the single defining experience of faith for me so far. And it never fails to keep teaching new lessons each morning, doesn’t it?

  9. 12

    It’s the reason I love you so much! Because when I read your words, I can breathe a sigh of relief — it’s OK. It’s all okay. These beautiful messes, the struggles. the seamlessly integrated life of service to God and motherhood and worship.

    I love your words! I absolutely cannot wait to read your book.

  10. 13

    This is so beautiful. You put into words so perfectly how I feel, which is why I come back here over and over for encouragement. Thank you.

  11. 14

    Amen, amen! You’ve captured the calling of motherhood so perfectly here. And I love the connection with Hannah, too – we heard part of her story in church this weekend, but I was left thinking about the part we didn’t hear: how the priest thought she was drunk on wine because she was wailing and yelling so wildly with her cries for a child. This is part of the calling to be a mother as well – knowing that the world will not always understand, will even criticize and judge, but that living as true to the call as you know how will bring you closer to God in the end, too. Thank you for this!

  12. 15

    Thank you LisaJo! What a beautiful post! I have learned so much from you, from your words of encouragement! I have grown closer to Him through each my 4 children as well as through you! Thank you!

  13. 16

    This is so beautiful Lisa. I had been feeling a bit heavy in my heart, no quite knowing where it was coming from and this post just put a name on my feelings. I think motherhood has been exactly this for me. Stretching me, bringing out the ugly, letting The Lord sharpen me through my little one. Thank you for doing this for willing to get real and write such beautiful words to encourage us suburban mamas. ;)

  14. 17

    Thank you for the beautiful encouragement. I need this daily reminder, that this family, these kids and this momma are ultimately all for and about Christ. “The sacred ordinary,” because that is where I am living my moments.

  15. 18

    Oh, how I get this. Thank you. So true.

  16. 19

    I want to cry. So many beautiful truths here that I haven’t been able to articulate in my own weary mothering heart. Thank you!

  17. 21

    Very early in my mothering journey I had a similar revelation (what else is it?): I want to parent my tinies the way that I believe God parents me. and so what does my parenting say about what I believe about our Father? I know, right? This is the trench or the proving ground, the crucible and altar for us mothers. Absolutely. And can I just say: I cannot WAIT to read your book. You are writing my own heart here.

  18. 23

    We are indeed kindred spirits. We must get together soon and celebrate all sorts of ideas, dreams and stresses we have in common! I love your heart, your writing and your sweet pictures of your children. Blessings of grace today, my sweet friend!

    • 24

      And on you, Sally. Thank you for mentoring so many of us so faithfully for so long. You are a gift.

  19. 25

    Lisa-Jo, thank you so much for your post. As someone also currently ambivalent about motherhood while feeling called toward parenthood one day, and also as someone who is career-driven AND has a background in human rights and human trafficking (are we the same person!?), THANK YOU. It’s alleviated my fears to see how you are content in your role as mother and wife, even if you never thought it would look this way.

  20. 26

    Love, love, love this piece! Thank you, Lisa-Jo, for writing with such insight and intelligence and bravery.

    I do want to clarify that while the author of the Her.Meneutics piece you linked to suggested that I too consider there to be a distinction between “serious theology” and ” ‘non-substantive’ topics like parenting, homemaking, and relationships” NOTHING could be further from the truth! I clarified that here: http://blog.christianitytoday.com/women/2012/11/holy-homemaking-a-response-fro.html

    Loving everything you do here, and looking forward to more in 2013.

    • 27

      Hey there Rachel – thanks for the kind words. And while I appreciate the clarification, truth is I would never consider a woman who has introduced us all to the phrase “eshet chayil!” and the beautifully reinvigorated take on Proverbs 31 as anything other than someone who recognizes serious theology in motherhood, among many other so-called “non-substantive” areas. Thank you for recognizing women of valor everywhere.

  21. 28

    This is a wonderful post that I have shared on my FB page! Mommy-hood is the hardest, most wonderful experience ever! I have 3 beautiful girls, 9 yrs, 4 yrs, and 1 yr! AND have one babe in the cooker! Some days are easy, other days they challenge me to my wits end! But all in all, it is ALL good! God has really grown me and continues to grow me! He teaches me through them all the time and has driven me to my knees all the time! And, you know, prayer actually WORKS!! God hears our mommy cries and cares. He cries when we cry. He hurts when we hurt. He sings over us as we are in the trenches of mommy-hood. This is such a great reminder when the days are dreary and we forget that God is for us and has a plan! I could go on and on! Thank you for your awesome ministry! Keep it up! You are doing great and are helping SO many mommies navigate their way through this thing called life! God Bless!

  22. 29

    Amen, this from a girl who like you was not going to be a mom and yet God had a WHOLE different plan for me and my hubby. Wow, I so relate to you. Thanks for writing.

  23. 30

    I loved reading this post as I so. needed. to. read. this. post. Tonight, as I got out of my car and walked through our parking lot toward our townhouse, I could hear my five-year-old son screaming from three-units away. I walked in my home and found my boy in the middle of a rage-filled tantrum and my husband at wits end. I had been gone since 5:30 am and had just relied on public transportation for two-hours before getting home and I was 100% on duty … it didn’t matter that my belly was empty and my feet were rock hard with cold. In that moment, all I could do was breathe out desperate prayers for strength and wisdom and calm as I dove into chaos, unsure of my next move. But during that struggle I felt Jesus there with me. And as I kissed my son’s forehead that had only moments before been crimson red laced with bulging, purple veins, I felt Jesus by my side. And still, before I got take off my boots or eat a bite of food I felt the unbridled love of Christ as I helped my daughter wash her hair, and as I talked with her about her day and as I gathered up her dirty clothes strewn across her floor. Yes, “child of God” is my true identity, but I am a child who is also a mother. And this journey of motherhood has helped me experience the love of my Savior … and show His love, in new and beautiful ways. Lisa Jo, thank you for this encouragement and for being true to who you are. I love you and am so grateful for your heart, your boldness and your willingness to bare your soul to show hope to other moms.

    • 31

      Oh Angela – holy ground. Holy ground just reading this comment. So much courage crammed into motherhood. Thank you for sharing a glimpse here.

  24. 32

    I took a long blogging break, and today I came back. I was hesitant because I am a small blog, and in fear of always being invisible. Your blog helps create hope and inspiration. Exactly when I need it.

  25. 33

    My children are not so little anymore. My youngest 9 and my oldest 21 and newly married. But I keep coming here. I learn so much from you, from your wisdom and know that I still have so much to pass on to my own children, my grand babies one day, and this next generation. Bless you my friend.

  26. 34

    Thank you. A beautiful and lovely post.

  27. 35

    Wonderfully stated. I will admit along with Gary Thomas that “family life tires me as perhaps nothing else does; but…it’s also God’s call and part of his plan to perfect me.”

    I am exceedingly grateful for the journey of mothering my three little girls (ages 6, 3, and 9 months). What a gift – even in the hard moments.

  28. 36

    Thank you for this post. I am in the process of praying about my teenager who is getting married in 5 months because we found out about a secret sin she is involved in. This child is a good kid who just messed up–really, we believe that and I’m the been there done that type of person, so I don’t think you could get much past me. Anyway, my first reaction is to come down on her hard-core. I had it all planned out: what I was going to take away, the lecture was perfectly formed in my head, the discipline was perfectly laid out before me. Then Jesus showed up. He reminded me of grace and asked me, “How are you going to show her the same grace I’ve shown you?” Wanting to be conformed to his image, to show my girls Him, I had to completely rethink my approach. My husband and I still need to talk about this (he’s been gone for 2 weeks) before we talk to her, but I am trying to figure out how to obey Him, show Him yet parent her the way she needs. But I never would have dug deep if I wouldn’t have had to experience this parenting moment–well all the parenting moments. So, especially now, this post is definitely speaking to me. Thank you!

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