Something pretty remarkable is going on around dinner tables, in car trips to soccer practices, and beside little one's beds. A generation of children is being raised to make their mark on the world-to make a difference in their place in history.
I always hesitate to talk about mothering, because it proves to be such a divisive issue. When women disagree about topics concerning their kids, we do it with passion and conviction. We are quick to feel judged. Perhaps it's because in the quiet of our hearts, we are all a little bit afraid that we aren't doing a good enough job as mothers. We are uber aware of all the ways in which we should be excelling, and all too often, we feel we fall short.
Because we want to give our kids everything they need, because we are so afraid they'll fall behind or not be good enough, we follow schedules that would have made our mothers laugh out loud. I wonder if a single one of our mothers would have behaved the way that we do. Whenever our schedule gets too harried, I'm reminded of my mom's wise words-that what our kids need most is consistency, routine, and calm-to know that one day will be like the next and that there is stability at home.
Moms, we have got to slow it down. We need to give one another a break, and give our children a break, and get off this unhealthy gerbil wheel that is going absolutely nowhere.
And those of us who are feeling that it's not just the schedule that's the problem-it's just everything, might need to call in some reinforcements.
My husband, Leo, recently pointed out that our eleven-year-old daughter, Jane, was getting a little bit lost in the shuffle. My first response was to feel judged. I was doing all that I could, but it still wasn't enough? Then I cooled my jets enough to recognize that his comment wasn't about me, it was about her. And he was right. The problem was, I truly did not have the bandwidth to put one more activity or project on my calendar, even if it concerned my beloved Jane. So I decided to look for some reinforcements. Help came in the form of Sarah, my wonderful assistant. Sarah loves my kids, loves Jesus, and once asked, was more than happy to schedule special “Jane time” each week. They are going through a great Christian book aimed at Jane's age level, and Jane has found a new place to explore her faith. She feels special, singled out, and Sarah's influence has been shaping Jane's heart. Lesson for me-it didn't have to be my influence. It just needed to be a good one.
One evening, Jane arrived home from her time with Sarah. Let me set the stage-I had family coming in the next day, and one had a birthday I was prepping. Leo had been coaching soccer, and followed that practice with a tennis game. I had taken everything out of the fridge and was trying to clean it. Both little ones should have been in bed, and I was starting to feel overwhelmed. Jane bounced in the kitchen and enthusiastically blurted, “What are my gifts and talents?”
I was caught off guard, paused a little too long before replying, and then asked her to give me a minute. Her face fell, and she said under her breath, “I knew she wouldn't be able to come up with anything.” I asked her to just give me a minute-that we'd talk when I put her to bed. She went upstairs looking deflated.
By the time I had gotten the kitchen pulled back together and the little ones in bed, I was truly wiped. I just felt like I didn't have it in me to pour out more. I walked into Jane's room, and it was like a tornado had swirled in. I had asked her earlier to clean her room, and she had done nothing. Let me tell you-this was not a good set up for me to call out all her gifts and talents.
We cleaned the room together, I tucked her in bed, and I was tempted to make the consequence of the messy room to be a withholding of my words of affirmation. But I knew that would be wrong, so I asked the Lord to give me the right words. He did. I was able to share the specific abilities I see in Jane, and share with her my vision for the ways in which I believe God can one day use those gifts.
I don't do that sort of thing nearly enough.
We are in a unique position to call out the destiny of our children. God has a plan for each one of them, and there is no one more qualified than their mothers to help them see the connection between their gifts and talents and genuine needs in God's kingdom. We can chart a vision for who they can become, based on their unique bent.
I know that sometimes our mothering tasks feel repetitive, mundane and unimportant. But it's in those still moments, in the calm, that we can be making an enormous investment in the future. As Andy Stanley said, “Your greatest contribution to the kingdom of God may not be something you do, but someone you raise.”
With you on the journey,
As we move through Advent and prepare to celebrate the arrival of our Savior, I wonder what is pulling at your heart. Is there a longing? Is there something you are wishing for? Is the biggest thing on your Christmas list impossible to wrap up in a package, but oh, if it could be delivered to you, the satisfaction would be so very sweet?
Last month, I wrote about what we can do when it's hard to hope. Perhaps at no time of year is it harder to hope than at Christmastime. The lights, decorations, and smells create something beautiful. That beauty expands our hearts, and makes us long for fulfillment. It can make us long for traditions we had in childhood. It can make us long for a return of the pure wonder we used to have. The deepest ache comes when we long for the presence of loved ones who were here in years past but are no longer with us.
These aches were placed in our hearts by our Creator to make us long for heaven. Our time on earth is not all there is. Our destiny is an eternal one, and it is only there that we will have all our longings satisfied. Our hearts are continuously being pulled towards that place where we'll experience true fulfillment. During our lifetimes, we'll get tastes and glimmers of what that heavenly bliss is going to be like, but they are only meant to point us homeward, never to totally fill and satisfy us.
When we look to people, or circumstances, or even answers to prayer to satisfy our longings, we will always be disappointed. We were made for more, and that more is not here. Yes, Jesus satisfies. Yes, His Holy Spirit fills us and makes all the difference in our lives. But there will always be a gap between what we experience on earth, and the total union with God that we were created for.
What we think of heaven will have an enormous impact on how we feel about all of this. If we think of heaven as a place where we do nothing but play harps and sing all day, we're going to try to squeeze as much satisfaction out of this life as we can. We'll have the attitude, “Let's eat and drink and be merry because tomorrow we die (and everything gets really boring after that point).”
Oh my friends. Nothing could be further from the truth. Heaven is NOT going to be boring. It's going to be the place where our emptiness is filled. Where our joy shoots through the roof to the point of ecstasy. Where all our longings will be satisfied. Everything wrong will be made right. Every tear will be wiped from our eyes. When Jesus left this earth, He went to get it all ready for us. Think about the ultimate Christmas experience. The most beautifully decorated home. Sublime smells. Foods with the perfect blend of flavor and comfort. Unwrapping the gift that you've been hoping for but were sure was out of reach. Being surrounded by those you love. All of that is just a taste of what Jesus has prepared for us.
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.”
(1 Corinthians 2:9)
The story is told of a woman who lost her only child. Holding him in her arms, she turned her face towards heaven and said, “I give you joy, my sweet child.” This is what awaits us. Pure joy. This is what is being experienced right now by our loved ones who have gone before us. This why we don't “grieve like the rest, who have no hope.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13)
E'en for the dead I will not bind my soul to grief; Death cannot long divide. For is it not as though the rose that climbed my garden wall Has blossomed on the other side? Death does hide, But not divide; You are but on Christ's other side! You are with Christ, and Christ with me; In Christ united still are we.
This Advent season, let's turn our hearts to heaven. While we enjoy the glimmers of joy here, let's remember that our inner ache, our longings, our desires, are going to be satisfied there.
So now we wait. We still our hearts. We prepare for the coming of Jesus, the one who came into the mess of the manger, who made Himself into bread so our hunger could be satisfied, who even now is preparing a banquet for us in heaven, beyond our wildest imaginings.
Come, Lord Jesus. Come.
May the blessing of hope be yours this Advent season!
 L.B. Cowman, Streams in the Desert (Grand Rapids, MI: Zonderan, 1997), 450.