When my first child was born, I was consumed by the overwhelming feeling of desperation. The sleepless nights, the acid reflux, and the exhaustion all began to drain me day after day. All of the things that I didn’t know or expect as a new mom began to isolate and distance me from others. I believed the lie that I was all alone, because my close friends and family lived somewhere else. Instead of seeking friendships and community in my life, I wallowed in the idea that my life was doomed to be tied down to needs of my child.
Even as my child grew older and we added more children to our family, the thought of being alone in my journey never went away like I hoped it would. I thought maybe I just needed more confidence in my parenting to shake this feeling.
Over the past few years, God has used this loneliness to bring me to my knees. I began to pray and seek friendships with women outside of my circle. Through this process, I’ve learned that as moms, community is hard to commit to, but it is so worth it in the end.
Thankfully, God has brought a small group of women to my life that encourage me to think about the scriptures and pursue a deeper walk with the Lord. Today I want to share with you why striving for meaningful relationships within the church is important for you and your children.
It takes an (encouraging) village
We’ve all heard the sayings, “it takes a village to raise a child,” or “I’ve seen the village and I don’t want it raising my child.” The truth is that as believers we do need a village, but one that always points us and our children to Christ. When we isolate ourselves, it becomes easier for us to judge others and hide our struggles and sins.
When we are open with those around us, we can lean on each other when life is hard. This may look like taking a meal to a friend that just had a baby and reminding them that they are not alone. Or taking a friend’s kids for the day when they are sick and need some recovery time. Loving others and creating meaningful friendships is an opportunity for us to serve without receiving anything in return.
While it’s important to surround ourselves with others, it’s also important that we find a group that strives to love and honor God through everything in their lives. We must seek community with those that know the Word and love us enough to speak truth in our lives.
When we have worldly friends that seem to care more about the latest trends, reality t.v., and celebrity gossip, it can influence us in a negative way. It can cause our thoughts to be consumed by things that don’t matter.
But if we find community in those that are truly seeking the Lord, it can change our lives. I encourage you to get involved with a local women’s Bible study or become more invested with those in your church. Finding people that will encourage you in your relationship with God can change how you view those hard feelings that we all deal with in this life.
I also want to point out that it’s important and beneficial for us to join together with singles, married couples, and families. Sometimes the people that encourage us the most in our Christian faith are those that are different from us. In fact, having a mentor that has grown children and may now have an empty nest could provide tons of guidance during your parenting hardships.
How our children benefit
It’s significant when we show our kids that community isn’t divided into groups but that it is good when we join together with other believers. When we pursue meaningful friendships with people or families who love God, we can lean on each other through training our children with the same goals in mind. When we fellowship with other families, it can be a great way for our children to make new friends. By knowing families that strive to honor and know God, we can hope to set our children up to also seek intentional relationships.
Whether it’s a single woman from church, or another family from your local homeschool group, inviting others into our home and serving them can be a great way for us to teach our children how to show God’s love to those around us.
How do you find time for community and fellowship with other believers?
I couldn’t believe seven people lived in this stifling, dark room. The heat wasn’t as oppressive as the lack of hope. I slid my camera back into my bag because I knew there would be no pictures here. There weren’t any smiling faces or laughing children. There was a sorrow I can’t explain.
The home belonged to the mother of one of the teen moms from the maternity home our family started nearly a decade ago, and our staff in Kenya wanted us to understand why we needed a transition home for some of the girls and their children. And they needed us to know why providing jobs is so critical.
When we asked how we could pray for her, she shared about the difficult issues in her marriage and the abuse by her drunken husband. We held hands and prayed over her. It was hot and hard to shake the hopelessness that pervaded the room. Just as we were preparing to leave her husband walked in the door—drunk.
And just like that, my little family was in the middle of a heated dispute in a dangerous slum with angry words being flung back and forth in Swahili. We sat back down. I held my little girl’s hand and whispered a prayer for peace and safety as we sat there, unsure of what was being said. I won’t lie—in that half hour I didn’t feel brave at all and longed to return to my normal.
But as soon as I thought it I heard the words thunder in my heart: This is their normal.
I closed my eyes and silent tears slid down my cheeks. My God, this is their normal. There isn’t a fun week of spring break ahead. There isn’t peace and provision. There isn’t enough bread for the day. And as hard as this is to experience for an hour, this is their way of life.
It’s easy to get so absorbed in our own little worlds that we completely miss the way the rest of the world lives. And I can say this because it’s what I did for a very long time. But I dare you, I beg you to hear this truth: your normal isn’t the world’s normal, and the greatest deception is that you believe that it is.
Your full pantry isn’t normal for the rest of the world. Your cold fridge with your favorite drinks and closets with clothes and multiple pairs of shoes—this is not normal for 75 percent of the world. In economic terms the global North (United States, Canada, Western Europe, Australia, New Zealand)—with one quarter of the world’s population—controls four-fifths of the income earned anywhere in the world. Inversely, the global South (every other country)—with three quarters of the world’s population—has access to one-fifth of the world’s income.
In other words, a small percentage of us have access to most of the world’s resources while a large percentage of the world doesn’t have enough for one day. God uses people and builds bridges to connect the two worlds. But the life we are building is wasted if it doesn’t take us somewhere that matters. It’s tragic to build a bridge to nowhere. The only thing worse is leading our kids there.
The world and all its sparkling offerings give us temporary satisfaction. But we were created for the real thing. John Piper once said, “If you can’t see the sun you will be impressed with a street light. If you’ve never felt thunder and lightning you’ll be impressed with fireworks. And if you turn your back on the greatness and majesty of God you’ll fall in love with a world of shadows and short-lived pleasures.”
It’s tempting to think that those with more than enough always rescue those without enough. I have discovered a mutual rescue because I’m just as desperate to see the Son. So with a worldview that acknowledges some have less, others have more, and maybe, just maybe God wants to use us as a bridge—we first need to answer the question, Why do we give?
I know we aren’t working our way to heaven, checking off an eternal list of good deeds to earn our way in and somehow building a bridge high enough to get us there. No, our salvation is only by grace upon grace, mercy upon mercy.
We give because He gave everything for us.
Kristen Welch, blogger at We are THAT family, is the bestselling author of Raising Grateful Kids in An Entitled World and Raising World Changers, releasing May. 1, 2018
From the moment we hold our sweet babies in our arms these thoughts waste no time creeping in. I remember having these thoughts when I first started nursing and the first time I buckled a floppy newborn into a car seat. They haunted me during sleep training, potty-training, and picking gum out of toddler hair.
All of those things have a way of eventually working themselves out. We survive, life moves on. But when it comes to discipline, those thoughts don’t want to let go. “I’m doing it wrong. This isn’t working.” Perhaps that’s because nothing brings out our frustration and doubts about our parenting like discipline. We know we’re supposed to be training these little hearts, but we didn’t expect it to be so hard.
I clearly remember a day that I disciplined my three-year-old for throwing a toy in anger. I told him to sit on his bed and think about what we learned about self-control. Situation over, discipline nailed. Right? Not so much. He turned around and said, “No. I will NOT think about ANYTHING.”
Oh, boy. I realized then and there that discipline is not something I can check off my to-do list. It’s an inseparable part of daily parenting – whether I like it or not. After having five boys in exactly seven years, I realized discipline was a train I was not getting off anytime soon.
But at the same time God began showing me that that’s a good thing. I not only want to stay on this train, I want to ride it all the way to its final destination: my kids’ hearts. Discipline allows me to connect with my kids in a personal, precious way. Most importantly, discipline lays the foundation for teaching my kids the gospel.
And now I want to come alongside you parents with a personal and embarrassingly raw account of what God has taught me about the “D” word. What does discipline have to do with the gospel? Theology is wonderful—but how does it help me with my screaming two-year-old in the middle of WalMart? How do we strike the balance between too much discipline and too little, especially when we are exhausted and discouraged?
I didn’t write this book because discipline comes naturally to me. I wrote it because my kid pushed your kid into the pool at swim lessons. I wrote it because last week I had to leave the grocery store early when my kids were wrestling in the aisles. And I wrote it because discipline seems exhausting and discouraging only when we leave out the most important ingredient: the gospel.
If you’re looking for a formula that will turn disobedient kids into perfect little angels, you won’t find it. God doesn’t give us a formula. He gives us principles. The Holy Spirit gives us wisdom to use those principles to point our kids to Christ. When your kids disobey, they are telling you something. Strain your ears to hear past the tantrums, the rebellious stomping, and the disrespectful tone. They are saying, “Mom . . . I don’t know how to obey on my own. Can you help me?”
This is our time. This is our chance to point our kids to the only thing that matters: the gospel. God has given us the task of discipline not just so we can survive today but to lead our kids to the cross. Discipline is a beautiful privilege and I want to show you how to find joy in it. There is so much more to discipline than creative strategies, checklists, and behavior management. There’s Jesus.
Sara Wallace is a wife, author, and stay-at-home mom. She and her family live in Idaho where they minister in their church plant and homeschool their five little boys. Sara loves to cook, decorate her home, and write about the crazy blessing of parenting.
Recently my family went eight weeks without the internet.
Yes, we lived for eight weeks in a temporary home with no internet while our home underwent repairs.
As the day approached for this eight week journey to commence, I felt itchy and unsettled. I just knew I would miss out on so much in that dark void of connection. But God is faithful and good, and now, on the other side of that time, I am incredibly thankful for it. God used it to change my heart in big ways.
Ultimately, He changed my perception of motherhood and my work ethic around the home.
As the days and weeks passed free from the pull of the internet, I found myself being fully present in my days. Seemingly little changes – like sitting with the kids at breakfast instead of on the couch checking emails – became big habit changes, and heart changes. And, without many toys in our temporary home, I was forced to do a lot more with my kids in general.
God opened my eyes to see that the allure of the internet was causing me to view my children as the distraction. I realized that the more I gave in to the pull of the online world, the hungrier my heart became for me and my needs, and the more I spent doing those very things.
However, by playing loads of puzzles over and over again, reading countless books, painting, taking big walks together, and, quite simply, spending all our time together, God showed me how much more I could be pressing into motherhood than I had been —how much more I wanted to be.
While down time and creative outlets are not bad things, God showed me that there is a deeper level of motherhood that He’s calling me into.
Earlier this year I re-read Sally Clarkson’s The Mission of Motherhood, along with Susan Schaeffer Macauley’s For the Children’s Sake. Both of these brought me to a place where I had to ask myself, “Am I willing to give even more? Am I able to offer up what God is asking of me?”
In Clarkson’s book, she talks about discipling and teaching our children. She offered Jesus as our example, which is fitting since He is our ultimate example in all things.
And how did He invest in and equip His disciples? He was with them all the time.
How did they learn from Him? By walking, talking, experiencing, and processing life together in real time.
Jesus did not allow any distraction to take Him away from all that God had asked Him to do. Despite the temptation, Jesus actively chose whole-hearted life of ministry with His disciples so they might serve the people He had come to save. Is this not the same for me and the little people God has asked me to raise up in the way they should go?
Since becoming a mother, little by little, the Lord has slowly being prying open my closed fists and bringing down the walls of my heart. He’s calling me to give all of myself to Him, for His service.
During this season of “online disconnection,” God also showed me how much more capable I am of caring for our home than I have allowed myself to be in the past. Not only am I capable but, in a study of Proverbs 31, I saw how in the original language God has called wives to be strong and warrior-like in their task of managing their homes.
Did I mention that not only did I not have the internet, but I didn’t have a dishwasher?
I saw that all the gadgets that are supposed to free our time up have actually made our lives more complicated (by raising the standard of cleanliness and by allowing that time to be always filled up with activities and stuff-managing).
Without those two “hindrances” in my life, I set up better routines and found that I gained so much satisfaction at the end of the day when I had worked hard with a full and honest heart. I didn’t have the guilt about how I spent my time pressing down on me at the end of a day. It was wonderful.
I saw how truly abundant a simple life can be.
These challenges may not be challenges in your life. You may already be fully present with your children and working hard around your home. But if you aren’t, I want to come alongside you and encourage you – as God has so gently and firmly encouraged me – to evaluate how you are spending your days as a wife, mother, and homemaker.
Is the internet (or, something else) causing you to see your family as a distraction?
Are you easily annoyed or resentful when your children require a hug, a correction, or a time of play when you’re involved in that particular activity?
Is there a place in your heart that you have closed off to the Lord? Are you, in keeping it closed, saying to the Lord, “Yes, Lord, I give you my life – but please let me keep this part all to myself?” Oh yes, I have.
If you are then, just like me, go to your Father in Heaven. Seek His wisdom and His care. Repent and start working on pruning those things out of your life.
As you can see, I have the internet again (and a dishwasher). We are back home and life is back to normal. At times, I have been weak and allowed myself to get sucked back in. But, I deeply want something different for my life – and God has knocked on that closed door so strongly that I cannot shut myself to Him. So I pick myself up when I’ve failed, cry out to the Lord for strength, and keep going.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us throw off every encumbrance, and sin which so easily entangles, and let us run with endurance the race set before us.”Hebrews 12:1
In Hebrews 12, we see that it is not just sin that weighs us down and prevents us from living this life for Christ – there are also encumbrances. If you love the Lord, you will look at your own heart and life and throw off what sins and encumbrances are weighing you down and keeping you from loving your God and family well.
Where is God calling you to press deeper into truth? What does it require of you? And are you willing to obey, no matter the cost or “come what may?” Seek Him and He will show you the way. Not only that, He will go with you and give you His strength.
Have you ever had someone you know unexpectedly knock on your door?
I’ve always struggled with whether to invite them in or just see if they quickly need something. I want to be hospitable, but sometimes their visit catches me off guard. This usually looks like me trying to hide the leftover breakfast crumbs on the table and the blocks and toys that are all over the floor. All the while being polite and excited to see the person knocking on my door.
Made for Relationships
Like every other woman in America, I love the HGTV hit “Fixer Upper”. But as they are revealing the home to the homeowners, I can’t help but think about how long the house will actually look like that. Every accent of the home has been staged and designed beautifully. I don’t know about you, but my family would walk in and it would be a disaster in about five minutes.
As women, we believe that our homes must look perfect in order to invite anyone over. Maybe that’s why you never have guests because your home is always a mess. I’ve been there. The problem is, it’s difficult to connect with other believers when we believe this lie.
God created us to love one another and to have great conversations together. He didn’t create us to obsess over how clean or messy our homes are. Like everything we have, our homes belong to Christ. They are to be used for His glory, not for our own.
“Hospitality, however, seeks to minister. It says, “This home is not mine. It is truly a gift from my Master. I am His servant and I use it as He desires.” Hospitality does not try to impress, but to serve.” -Karen Burton Mains, quote from Open Heart, Open Home
Our primary purpose for inviting someone in should be to display the love of Christ. The condition of our home shouldn’t distract us from truly serving and loving our neighbor.
What’s the point?
So, maybe the solution to being hospitable is to commit to a cleaning schedule or get into the habit of at least keeping the living area picked up. We can always find little ways to improve our homemaking skills. But what we should focus on more than anything else is our motives.
I was recently listening to a video by Jen Wilkin, where she was talking about biblical hospitality. She stated that someone can host and create a beautiful dinner party with a fancy meal and it can be either entertaining or hospitality.
The two can look very similar. But if the hostess is doing it for their own glory and constantly fishing for compliments on how beautiful their tablescape is, they are obviously not practicing biblical hospitality. Another hostess could simply enjoy the work that goes into creating something breathtaking so that they can minister to those around them and reveal to them the beauty of Christ.
The difference between the two comes down to our motives. If we are willing to open the doors of our home whether it’s tidy or messy, we can be the hands and feet of Christ. But if we are focused on ourselves and our imperfections, we will be distracted from truly showing love to our guests.
John Piper said,
“You have a body to make God look good.”
When it comes to hospitality, I like to replace the word body with home. The purpose of our home should be to make God look good. Because He is good and our purpose in this life is to bring Him glory while being the light to those we come in contact with.