"I have loved you with an everlasting love, I have drawn you with unfailing kindness." Jeremiah 31:3
I have received thousands of responses to my blogs on child discipline lately. I see how many sweet ones there are who truly want to do the best and be the best for their children. But before I do one more post on child discipline, I just felt I wanted to tell you how very precious you are and how much your own personal life matters.
I awakened this morning with you on my heart. I know there must be many precious moms out there who are reading these articles and are feeling inadequate or guilty or condemned--or just worn out! I have been praying for you all morning.
Motherhood is very precious to the Lord. As a matter of fact, the more I mothered, the more I came to understand Him, His love, His sacrifice, His forgiveness, His patience. Motherhood is not an easy journey. I kept feeling that I needed to have more children so I could do it right at least once!
And yet motherhood is a long journey, a hard and challenging journey, that will require much endurance with grace, much forgiveness, much patience and just a whole lot of energy expended.
You are truly important to God in the midst of it all. He sees you and cares for your dreams and desires. And so I wanted to write a little post just for you.
When I had my first baby, I had never even changed a diaper. I did not know how to hold a baby. I was unprepared for the task. I also did not know how selfish and self-absorbed I was. And I have to admit that over the years, there were many times when I did not feel loving or feel like a good mother or even feel like I wanted to *be* a mother. I was always committed to my children and always committed to loving them, because I knew God wanted me to. But I did not always like them and sometimes that made me feel guilty.
I just put one foot in front of the other because I thought that is what God wanted me to do.
So if you feel that you are not a "natural" mother, or you enjoy doing things outside your home, or you have other ambitions, please do not condemn yourself. I felt all of those feelings and had to learn how to balance the different pulls on my life. But God has loved me and led me through it all.
I know that there are so many of you precious ones with deep scars. Perhaps you came from an angry family, where you were criticized or rejected. Or maybe you were ignored and you still wish someone would notice you and love you deep inside in those places that only you can feel.
Many of you made some bad choices morally that have deeply injured your own heart. Or you have a passive and indifferent or mean and abusive husband.
You are not defined by any of these things--not by what people have said to you, not by your flaws (we all have them), and not by your past failures or present difficulties. God loves you so very much. God is with you. God is your champion.
We read that when He looked out on the multitudes, He had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. Jesus sees our needs. He loves us. He cares for how each of you feel deep in your heart.
You are so very precious to God. He is on your side. He will be your warrior God in all the battles in your home. He will help you and defend you and pour out His unconditional love on you. He is the source of your strength and joy. Nothing can separate you from His love. Romans 8
There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1
The only way we can truly make it in this life productively is to tend to the garden of our own souls. The only way you can be a loving mother or friend is to have your soul filled with the deep, unchanging, unconditional love of God.
I love the picture above. I picture my soul as a garden that must be tended and cultivated and watered. If my own soul is healthy, then all who draw from my soul, will receive true nurture and strength. However, I do not know of any great women who have not been very intentional about cultivating and building themselves into godly women. They invested purposefully to become who they are.
A wise woman builds her house, but it starts with a plan!
You may find criticism from the world. But in Christ, you will find love, deep, abiding, unconditional love and all that you need for your task. But you must choose to invest your time wisely.
So what are some ways to fill your own soul so that you may have strength and love to give?
1. Surround yourself with good and godly friends.
I once heard a speaker say that he will do anything to put himself in the company of people who make Him want to love God more, who make Him want to be a better person--who inspire Him. But that he would avoid all of those who spread poison or gossip or discouragement as much as possible.
I have a friend, Phyllis, who I know will always point me to God. Just being with her is like being in the presence of the Lord's encouragement, because she walks with Him and points me to him. Gwen is such a friend, and Deb, Shelley, Lynn, Beth and Sarah and Joy, ..........I gather these friends over the years and invest in them because they invest in me.
Find those friends, challenge a friend to be a prayer partner, to study a book together, to meet with you on a regular basis.
2. Spend time every day with the Lord. Find books, resources, people who can help you with this. (Go though the Psalms and circle or underline every promise or character quality of God. Read one chapter of John or Matthew a day and write down one lesson you have learned. Read through Philippians and note all the ways Paul tells us to follow Jesus.)
3. Clean out your soul on a regular basis--get rid of the rubbish that has kept you from experiencing God's love. (If we confess our sin, he is faithful and just to forgive us from our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.) Don't hang on to bitterness or condemnation--it will poison you. I have a friend, Sarah Mae, who is dear to me as though she were a daughter. She has recently published an ebook called Core Lies, that she is offering for free. We must rid our hearts from lies that would keep us from experiencing the generous love of God.
4. Surround yourself with books, blogs, people who feed your mind on truth, who draw you to become a better self. There are many, many women in my life who do that to me. But I wanted to point you to three of my favorites.
I love these women because they have chosen to have integrity in their lives when no one was looking. They have invested thousands of hours in the presence of God. They have chosen to love and serve Him, to always turn in the direction of faith. I know they are not perfect, but they hold fast to a Faithful God who carries them. They are also seasoned women who have chosen to faithfully love and serve their children, and husbands, even amidst challenging times. They have weathered life and from that weathering, have garnered stories of His faithfulness. Feed on their life-giving words. I do so love these women.
Brenda Nuland-- a mother of two grown children, who cultivates life, beauty, goodness and faithfulness in her home.Brenda always encourages me, feeds my soul and gives me loyal friendship.
Elizabeth Foss--a sweet mother of 9 children, whose devotion to God, gentle mothering of her children, and great thoughts always challenge me. She is humble and loyal as a friend and has learned to persevere with grace.
Ann Voskamp-an artist with words and photography, who deeply cherishes her precious Lord and wants to sing his messages into the lives of those in her pathway. Her gentle, humble words are always filled with grace that she found from walking closely with Him.
5. Spend time in nature--his workshop. When I see the artistry of God, and rest in the glory of the canopy of His beauty, I find great peace. Creation was made for us. He designed the stars for us to understand His vastness--His strength and ability to be bigger than us, to show us His power. He designed color, flowers, mountains, waterfalls, snow, rain, to show us His design. When I invest time in His works of art, I am inspired to reflect His art and beauty in my home as a picture of His reality in an otherwise dark world. Creation nurtures my soul when I take time to observe it.
6. Restore, relax, recreate. Young moms need a break.(and old moms and moms of teens, and........) They need sleep. Sometimes grumpiness or depression goes away with just a couple of good nights of sleep or time away with a friend. Moms need to have a friend who understands them and still loves them! They need to laugh and lighten up. Cultivate times of breaks in your life, times of just getting away. Don't always be serious--it is exhausting.
Our bodies need a sabbath rest. I take my tea time every day with a candle, book or magazine. I collect videos and movies and series of stories that delight my soul. I surround myself with music everywhere--at home, in the car, at dinner, when I am in a plane. I love rhythms and movement. I make time for cherished friends. I make fun for myself with my children so that we can just laugh and play and store up humor--everyone needs a break. (Read my daughter, Sarah's blog post from a couple of days ago--Christians need to learn how to lighten up and have fun.)
These precious ones are not just public figures to me, but in the privacy of friendship, offer such grace, humility, love and always make me want to love Him more.
This blog is way too long, but the point is, you are important. Your emotional, spiritual and physical health matters to God. If you cherish your soul and become a good steward of your needs, you will be stronger for your journey of life and more ready to meet its demands. But you are the one who must plan how to endure with grace and beauty. You must create a plan that best suits your puzzle of life. Grace and beauty and peace in the midst of it all.