Archive for Parenting

A Parenting Gem from Charlotte Mason, That Nearly Every Other Parenting Book Missed

I’m re-reading Home Education by Charlotte Mason and I stumbled upon this nugget of mothering goodness that stayed with me for months and wanted to share it, as I don’t recall ever reading it explained this way anywhere else.

(And let’s be honest, you’ve seen my bookshelves! I’ve spent hundreds of dollars on parenting and education books.)

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Charlotte Mason, as you might recall, was an educator in England during late 1800’s, known for her compassionate heart for the plight of children and her keen observations about what made them tick.

She knew how to win their hearts, and understood the difference between being lectured to and being fully educated.

In volume 1 part 3, Entitled “Offending the Children,” she talks about a code of ethics for dealing with children, taken from the gospels:

It is summed up in three commandments, and all three have a negative character, as if the chief thing required of grown-up people is that they should do no sort of injury to the children: Take heed that ye offend not––despise not––hinder not––one of these little ones.

She opens by telling the story of a mother who thinks it’s “funny” to get a reaction out of her baby by saying “Naughty Baby” just to watch the way the child’s face drops and her countenance changes. In short, teasing the baby by saying something untrue. She notes that the baby’s face changes because her little conscience is working and she’s aware of right and wrong. Then she asks how this child could grow up into someone who couldn’t care less about doing right?

She contends that is because of the inconsistency of the mother and her example of not loving virtue.

By slow degrees, here a little and there a little, as all that is good or bad in character comes to pass. ‘Naughty!’ says the mother, again, when a little hand is thrust into the sugar bowl; and when a pair of roguish eyes seek hers furtively, to measure, as they do unerringly, how far the little pilferer may go. It is very amusing; the mother ‘cannot help laughing’; and the little trespass is allowed to pass: and, what the poor mother has not thought of, an offence, a cause of stumbling, has been cast into the path of her two-year-old child. He has learned already that which is ‘naughty’ may yet be done with some impunity, and he goes on improving his knowledge.”

 

She contrasts this behavior with that of the “law compelled” mother–one who upholds virtue as a standard for all in the house, including herself and doesn’t allow herself to rule her children from a place of convenience, selfishness, moodiness, or whim.

This mother believes it’s her DUTY to live under the very laws she upholds as beautiful and right to her children. AND, conversely, to parent any other way, especially to parent on your whim or moods, it to train your child to live selfishly and hate virtue.

She explains that children are born into the world with a sense of justice. They recognize injustice when they’re called “bad boy” or “naughty girl” when they weren’t truly bad.

Children know and learn quickly that sometimes the only truth they have to get around is mom’s bad mood or dad’s tired hour to get what they want. They are trained to manipulate when parental whims are the prevailing law in the home and God’s law, or virtue and right and wrong is nothing.

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A mother who “does not offend or hinder a child” is one who consistently calls good good and evil evil.

She teaches the child that they both have a duty to God and to truth.

Therefore, she doesn’t laugh or overlook when the child throws a fit or hits another child, or steals cookies before dinner, even if she’s in an upbeat, silly mood and doesn’t feel like dealing with it.

And when the mother is aggravated or tired or stretched to her limits, she refuses to come down hard on the kids for little offenses, as though she’s the only consideration in the house and she’s above the law of God. She has a duty to love virtue and live virtue, and well, unjust anger doesn’t fit into that rubric.

I think many times we parent to our own whims. We know the right things to do, yes, but we don’t love virtue enough to do the hard things, and consequently, our children don’t love virtue either. It becomes a big game of pushing limits, testing mom and dad, or seeing how far we can go to the edge without getting in trouble.

Charlotte Mason, in Home Education says,

The child has learned to believe that he has nothing to overcome but his mother’s disinclination; if she choose to let him do this and that, there is no reason why she should not;

On watching a mother who lives by whims, not principle or law:

if his mother does what she chooses, of course he will do what he chooses, if he can; and henceforward the child’s life becomes an endless struggle to get his own way; a struggle in which a parent is pretty sure to be worsted, having many things to think of, while the child sticks persistently to the thing which has his fancy for the moment.

After describing the battle of wills that will surely result from self-centered living in parenting, she asks where it all stems from:

In this: that the mother began with no sufficient sense of duty; she thought herself free to allow and disallow, to say and unsay, at pleasure, as if the child were hers to do what she liked with. The child has never discovered a background of must behind his mother’s decisions; he does not know that she must not let him break his sister’s playthings, gorge himself with cake, spoil the pleasure of other people, because these things are not rightLet the child perceive that his parents are law-compelled as well as he, that they simply cannot allow him to do the things which have been forbidden, and he submits with the sweet meekness which belongs to his age.

In short, the child needs to know that his mother

“is not to be moved from a resolution on any question of right and wrong.”

I have done a lot of parenting and I’ve seen a lot of parenting and I know how easy it is to parent out of “convenience” for mom.

“Stop fighting.”–This house is so loud I can’t hear myself think.

“Do your chores.”–I don’t want to have to remind you and I want the work done.

When it all comes back to us as the center, and we forget virtue all together, we are woe-fully off of our goal of parenting to the glory of God.

Virtuous parenting looks up to the will of the Lord. It insists that we all live for God’s desires. Parents can’t live as though they are above God’s law. They don’t get a pass. They must not shirk their duty to live a life worthy of imitating.  To do so is to imitate another thing entirely.

In a Christian home, the standard must be God’s Word. What does God say about a matter? How would he have us act and react?  We don’t “seek our own” because we are not our own.

It’s worth working through Part 3 of Home Education if you want to read more about this. I found it very helpful.

For further reading on CM’s method’s, you might enjoy A Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola. Her blog is also enjoyable and refreshing.

A Word About Enforcing Obedience

The human heart pulses with the desire for self-rule.

Every fiber of our natural being is bent toward autonomy and self-sovereignty. We don’t naturally want to bow to the Lordship of Christ, and even after we’ve trusted Christ, our old selfish nature fights against God’s new standard for us: submission to Him.

Truthfully, the flesh hates to submit to anyone. We get really uppity when our will is crossed or people question us. I don’t like it when Peter questions why I keep the water bottles in this drawer or why I don’t crush my boxes before I put them into the trash bin. When he tells me that I should use this curriculum instead of that one {the one that I researched for a gazillion hours and where were you again during that process??} I can feel that old self, that defensive self, rising up claiming its right to rule the world, and I have to force it back down under the rule of Christ.

 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.

The rubber meets the road in the oddest places and over the smallest issues sometimes, doesn’t it? Water bottles, recycling, and curriculum?

Even in small matters, God’s will must super-cede our whims and wishes. God wills that I submit to others in areas of preference, and He wills that I submit to my gentle husband.

And unless we choose to bow to God’s will in the small, insignificant moments, taking drastic measures to cut out selfishness and self-seeking– measures that include repentance and turning from the wrong way into the path of obedience,

and unless the grace of God shines in and prompts us towards a serious pursuit of humility,

we’re going to fumble and fight our way through this life, hurting people, sacrificing relationships on the alter of our own ego, burning bridges, cutting off those who cross us, and elbowing our way to our perceived top.

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So every morning, my job is to de-throne Sarah and re-throne Christ to His rightful place, as Master and Lord. This is seriously hard business.

SO, where am I going with this?

Well, I often talk to frustrated mothers who are dealing with disobedient children, and they can’t seem to see that their sweet child is struggling with the same old temptation we all face: the submission issue. The child wants what the child wants. End of story.

And honestly, the mother is not dealing with this situation well. They’ve gotten into a battle of the wills and the child is driving her crazy and she resents all the TIME it takes to parent this out-of-control child. She’s frustrated, so she takes action. Nobody will accuse her of being a passive mom. She’s armed with Ephesians 6:1 and she uses it like a boss. She sets out to enforce first time obedience and nobody better cross her. She uses threats or promises to control the child’s behavior. She begins to expect outward compliance. She uses punishments and rewards to get a desired behavior. Her moods are all over the place. She snaps in an effort to control. She yells.

Obedience has become the end-all and she’s ruled by that desire.  And this is where it all goes terribly wrong.

To be clear, the desire for kids to obey is a good desire, but it’s not the ultimate goal and it’s abusive to use ungodly methods to get your child there.

In fact, dear mom, more important than your child obeying you is YOU OBEYING CHRIST. Your authority only comes from Him and He has put you in this place to represent Him.

You are His ambassador and your authority has boundaries. You can’t rule any old way you’d like to. You’ll answer to God for your treatment of His kids.

Your authority must be reflective. It MUST reflect Christ. It should bring the child face to face with the Father’s character. It should hold the child’s hand and say, “I’m dealing with you this way because this is how God is.” “God says we all must obey His word, and this behavior is not in His will for you. We can’t bite and hit and hurt others. We must be kind.”

So when mom is not under the authority of Christ and is ruling like a CRAZY–

You are portraying a false image of Christ to your child and undermining all that you are setting out to do. You’re marring the image of Christ and portraying Him as a moody, silent, manipulative, angry, frustrated, or exasperated taskmaster. And you’re harming your child’s soul. (hardening it as well.)

I know parenting is hard. I know it is. But we make it harder when we don’t submit to God’s will for our life  because we’re locked and loaded on one aspect of our kid’s life. 

There’s a lot about training kids online, but if we would just submit ourselves to Christ, our authority issues won’t become central. No, showing your child Christ becomes central.

If you’ve asked your kids to obey for all the wrong reasons, or if your heart’s motivation was all wrong–GO AND TELL THEM and ask them to forgive you. Tell them that you have an authority problem–a problem as old as Eve– and you’ve used that authority in ways that displeases and misrepresents God. Tell them that yelling, manipulating, and the silent treatment are all just adult selfishness and sin.

And tell them that you are working on trying to be a mother that obeys God just as much as they are working to try to obey you, for Christ’s sake.  Tell them that we are all under the authority of the Word of God and none of us can live the way we want.

Then repent of your wrong reasons for enforcing discipline in the home and remember that your number one job as mothers is to teach our kids to glorify and honor God’s Word and to point them to God by reflecting His nature.

Life is simpler when we follow Christ first. Only then can we lead our kids to Christ.

 

 

Lessons You Learn by Becoming A Mother

Motherhood has a way of teaching us surprising lessons.

It challenges pre-conceived notions about life.

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Motherhood is both wonderful and exhausting, exciting and mundane.

The emotions of motherhood, the highs and lows and the rate they change, cannot be tallied or tracked on paper. How can someone I love so much frustrate me this much!? How can I be worried so much about someone who has a total mass of less than 25 lbs!?  I’m not being dramatic. The love a mother has for her children cannot be exaggerated. Still, even the most observant mothers need to experience certain things in order to fully understand.

For instance, if you thought that a normal bedtime was 7 p.m., you’d be wrong. That’s apparently THE VERY HOUR when children become scared, hungry, interested in books, and downright thirsty. Oh, then they need to use the bathroom.

If you thought 7 a.m. was the normal time to “rise and shine”, you’re wrong again. The ideal time to rise is based on the first rays of light coming through the window. Room darkening shades are a TOTAL waste of money.

If you thought that toddler’s tantrums were based on reality or reason, I don’t even know what to tell you, except you need to spend more time with kids. Tantrums, as it turns out, are based on perception of extreme mistreatment and injustice like the wrong colored sippy cup being administered, the wrong drink IN the sippy cup, the wrong character on the cup, or the wrong person handing them the cup.

Tantrums can be triggered by the desire to NOT wear a jacket, the mention of going to the store, not being allowed to buy candy once inside said store, being buckled into a car seat, or simply the urge to go outside right.at.this.very.moment even though it’s only 5 a.m.

Watching a tantrum is like watching a writhing, shrieking, sobbing contortionist performing his final act.

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Children will embarrass you. They’ll point out people’s worst features –in front of them– at loud decibels– whilst pointing. Subtlety is not a strength.

You learn that toddlers’ appetites are unpredictable. They refuse to eat one day, causing you to panic and take temperatures. “You have to eat, or you’ll get sick! Wait, are you sick!?” 

Oh, and food tastes change dramatically as well. On Monday they love carrots, and the next day, NEWSFLASH, all that has changed and they are willing to DEFY THE WORLD in order to not have to eat them at dinner time.

As they grow, the lessons are less obvious and take more time to learn.

You’ll learn the delicate balance of letting go during those tricky years between 11-18 when normal things become slightly embarrassing like kissing them in front of their friends, wiping their face in front of their friends, and reminding them of the family rules in front of their friends.

You learn that sometimes they really need to talk to their mother and sometimes they don’t. You learn to be perceptive to these times so you don’t miss them.

You learn that sometimes you need to let them fail in order to learn the lessons that will help them become responsible adults. And when they do fail, your mom-heart breaks as much as theirs. Conversely, when they succeed, your heart bursts with pride and excitement.

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You learn that Time has a way of showing up and declaring “The End” to the childhood phase all together.

As they leave, you’ll learn that they take pieces of your heart with them out the door on their journey.

As they leave, you’ll look back fondly on the days when the scuffle of feety pajamas on the wooden floor broke the 5 a.m. morning silence. (You might not even mind recalling the sound of tantrums.)

You realize that time was precious and memories were made in the midst of what seemed like the mundane whirl of family chaos: running to lessons, buttoning jackets, combing hair, family meal time, working on homework, games in the yard, snuggling to watch a movie, or family pizza night.

Moms, the “ordinary days” were actually an extraordinary gift from God.

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Motherhood is a gift, every stage of it.

I’m so thankful for that gift, and for my children, who taught me so much and still teach me every day!

The One Thing I Want My Dating Kids to Know.

I have three adult children who are either dating or of dating age and after 25 years of marriage and lots of exposure to teenagers who are in the “throws” of dating, I’ve learned one thing that I want my teens to know about dating:

Dating, done right, is a an outgrowth of worship done right.

In other words, God has to be your First Love before you can date with wisdom.

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It takes two people to date and get married, but only one to walk away. (Or to check out, which is the same as separating emotionally.) Divorce statistics are pretty staggering in the Christian community, don’t you think? Over 50%?

I know careful dating doesn’t guarantee that a marriage will last, but knowing that you are on the same page “worship-wise” from the get-go is so important because worship determines direction.

I’m sure you’ve seen newly dating couples who can’t seem to function without one another. At first it just seems cute, like “young love” and all dreamy-filtered-Instagram-my, but at it’s core, this obsession can be really unhealthy.

If one person has become an idol, that’s not love at all. It’s co-dependence–like a wood tick on a cat—a parasite on a host. Not a sustainable relationship because you suck the life out of each other.

I’m the kind of mom who points to the prison almost every time we pass by and tell my kids, “That’s where people who disobey the law end up.” I’m kind of a harper like that.

So when it comes to love and marriage, I’ve told me kids that love is doing the best for people when they are at their worst. Go into the relationship planning for the poorer, the sicker, the hard and unlovely and being thankful for the good.

Maybe our wedding vows should be more honest. (My wheels are turning, but I’ll spare you my sarcastic side.)

Suffice it to say, you are promising to love in the HARD. If an accident leaves him a quadriplegic or if the girl you were so attracted to ends up bed ridden and can do nothing for you, this is the “forever” mindset you are signing up for and pledging before God and these witnesses. *

THIS IS LOVE.

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Love is my grandfather caring for my grandmother in the late stages of Alzheimer’s and never wanting to leave her side.

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Anything that resembles “for richer”, good health, and mountaintop moments are all just the gravy on top.

When your desires are first met in God alone, this changes your focus completely. Dating is no longer about what I need from you but becomes what can we do together to serve this amazing God we have. This changes and informs and puts limits on our earthly interactions with each other.

Dating (and eventually marriage) is about you and me on mission to worship God properly, as equals, side by side, joint heirs of Jesus Christ. This overarching world view keeps Christ focal and my wants and whims and whining at bay.

Everything I do for my spouse, every interaction, every kind word when I don’t feel like being kind, every respectful answer when I feel like snapping back, is because my FIRST LOVE has commanded it to be so.

Christ is the True North in the dating then marriage commitment. We go off course when our “love” for this person becomes twisted and all about my needs being met. Self centered love exposes worship disorder.

In dating, worship disorder says:

  • “You’ll finally complete me!”
  • “He understands me better than anyone else I know.”
  • “I can’t live without him.”
  • “I’d do anything for him.”
  • “With him, I’ll finally be happy.”

In marriage, worship disorder says:

  • my husband needs to meet all of my need
  • my husband needs to make sure I feel loved
  • my husband needs to learn to communicate more
  • my husband needs to appreciate me more

Like a tick on a cat. You do for me. You perform for me. You live to make me happy.

What if we returned to true worship, even in our relationships? What if we expected more of God and less of our spouse? What if we found our fulfillment in God alone? If we relied more on the unfailing promises of God and gave our spouse grace to be human?

Gary Thomson in A Lifelong Love says it this way:

“Isn’t it true that many marital arguments result from disappointment with our spouses? We want them to be something of do something or catch something and they aren’t or they don’t, and we feel sorry for ourselves. We really do want them to love us like God loves us…

Do you recognize that’s an impossible burden for a human spouse, right?

But what if I sought a “monk’s marriage”? What if I decided that I would depend on God alone, expecting nothing from my spouse but depending entirely on God for all my needs, including my emotional and relational needs.” pg.99

When God calls us into a dating or marriage relationship, there are certainly perks and blessings, but it’s not ultimately about our happiness. As Christians, our marriage is a picture, a metaphor, of Christ’s irresistible love for the church. Our love for our spouse shows the world a Kingdom picture.

This can only be done with the Lord’s help, through daily “dying” to our flesh, and by putting others first as an act of worship to the Lord.

In marriage, the way upward is downward. The way to unity is via humility, supernatural humility, in response to all we have and owe to our First Love.

I want my kids to know that a lasting marriage is not because two people just clicked while 50% of others didn’t. Marriage is hard work because the flesh is strong and sin is always with us. Pride and misplaced worship drives us to demand that my needs be met or else. That you praise me, appreciate me, notice me, etc… or else all bets are off.

I have one of the easiest husbands to get along with on the planet. Peter is really just the nicest guy ever. We were high school sweet hearts. I’ve always been crazy about him and I can honestly say that he has kissed me and told me he loves me every morning before work for the last 25 years. He is thoughtful and generous and makes sacrifices so that I will not only have what I “need” but anything he thinks will make me happy. (Hello, he’s taking me to LONDON for our 25th Wedding Anniversary!! Such a great surprise!)

This doesn’t mean that our marriage has been trial-free. No, we are both lively, driven, and selfish. (Him especially! JK) And to my shame, there have been many times when I’ve been argumentative, selfish, and disrespectful in marriage.  I’ve insisted on my own way, pouted when disagreements arose, expected Peter to read my mind and meet needs that only God can meet. Every time I acted this way, I can tell you with 100% certainty that I was in the midst of a worship-disorder.

If I had known this truth earlier on, that my marriage is an outpouring of my worship, I might not have struggled as much as I did.

A passion for God will keep your own passions in check. You’ll not so easily desire anything outside of His will. “If you love me, keep my word.”

Christ has an undeniable claim on your life AND on the life of your spouse/fiancee/boyfriend/girlfriend because God is their father and cares about how they are treated. It’s a crazy thought that God is my “father-in-law” because I married His redeemed and loved child, Peter. And God cares about every interaction I have with Peter and vice versa.

PURITY in dating becomes easier: “I’m dealing with God’s child and He cares and knows if I violate His will.” “I am not going to ask him/her to sin for my “benefit” when my First Love is CENTRAL in my heart and mind.

And Purity is not just a dating issue. The misplaced worship of self in dating only multiplies the struggle in marriage. This is why it’s mandatory that our heart’s affection is firmly attached to the God who claims our first love, allegiance, our life, and our all.

Why not focus on this first love and find your fulfillment in Him? He’s is THE SOURCE of all happiness. This frees you to love others well.

*NOT talking about enduring abuse here. If you are being abused, separate and get help. Be safe for you and your kids. It’s not Christian to be someone’s punching bag, verbally or physically.

*Post contains affiliate links.

Grace for the Mom Who Isn’t Enough

Wipe the counters. Empty the trash. Vacuum the rug. Make the coffee. Wash the cups. Fill the dishwasher. Empty the dishwasher. Change the laundry. Pick up Cheerios. Pick up Legos. Swiffer the floor. Change the diaper. Answer the phone. Fill the sippy cup. Check the mail. Write the check. Fold the laundry. Brush the teeth. Feed the cat.

Dizzying, this mother-life. Constant. Always moving, never seemingly making progress.

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Nothing will hit you with the stark reality that you are not enough like motherhood will. You quickly realize that you don’t have enough of anything–energy, time, organizational skills, wit, wisdom, patience, or maternal instinct– to parent these kids like you dreamed you would.

Our suspicions seem to be confirmed when we check social media and notice that our friend’s kids are wearing matching outfits and hairbows and they’re all “off” to ballet lessons. You notice your smiling friend seems to have the Kate Middleton blowout, and she’s clutching her coffee in neatly-manicured-hands.

And with every click, we are measuring ourselves and mentally keeping track of our deficiencies.

Click. Oh, she’s on a missions trip with her kids! Wow.

Click. Oh wow, they’re on vacation at that beautiful resort.

Click. What a sweet husband she has. He’s always sending her flowers and wisking her off for dinner. 

Click. Look at how amazing her decorating is. That house looks like it should be in a magazine!

Click. Oh, look at her surrounded by all her friends. They always have so much fun. I wish I had just one close friend like that.

Doesn’t social media feed the notion that everyone’s enough but you?

I had a day like this recently. I was going on day three of barely any sleep because my little guy was suddenly crying at night and needed to be rocked. I was also fighting sickness.

I pulled myself out of bed earlier than normal because my to-do list was long, poured myself an extra-large cup of coffee, plopped down on the couch and admitted to God, “Well, here I am. Completely overwhelmed before the day even begins, exhausted, moody, and ridiculous, but here for whatever I can get today.”

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I’ll admit to you right now that my flesh hates to come to God. I hate to admit that I’m needy. I feel like a beggar and who wants that? I want to be like my friends in the pictures who have it all together! But I’ve learned that my feelings are rarely truth. God tells us to come. He implores us to come! Because he wants to satisfy. He tells us to come with nothing in hand and be filled.

I love this paraphrase/commentary of Matt. 11:28-30

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (MSG)

Bleary eyed and half-heartedly I read:

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

God’s power made perfect in the midst of my weakness.

Yes, please. That’s what I need.

When I agree with the Bible and admit that self-dependence is NOT a Christian virtue, nor the trait of a Spirit controlled woman, I can embrace these truths when I am depleted that give me hope:

I am never left to fend for myself and I am not parenting these kids alone.

God gives me exactly what I need in the moment. “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want/lack.” He takes care of every one of my needs.

I do not need to conjure up the strength to do this thing right. I have God’s strength to cover my weakness.

God promises grace for today. I don’t need to worry about the tomorrows, because God doesn’t dole out grace for all.of.the.things I could ever worry about tomorrow. He deals in today.

No matter what I feel, God called me to parent these kids. This wasn’t a freak lottery. God is sovereign and in His wisdom, you are “it”, dear mother! Yes, you have inadequacies like we all do. Yes, you’ll struggle with issues your friends may seem to conquer with ease. But God does not call you to do something that He doesn’t equip you to do. While parenting is hard, we are not left comfortless. We have the Holy Spirit to cheer and guide our daily work.

My life doesn’t have to look like my friend’s life. God called me to this. He ordained my place and time. He wants me to rejoice and live it out!

Could it be that weakness is a gift? On those days when we are most aware of our own frailty and feel like a failure before we begin,

on the days when we are most vulnerable, is it then in those moments that Christ can work in us and through us in visible ways by the power of His might?

And isn’t it when we are the frailest that we’re also hyper-aware of His work in us and through us and we’re most prone to thank Him and give Him the glory?

So instead of beating yourself up for having limitations or for lacking ability, let’s give thanks for anything that causes us to press in to God and to rest in His sufficiency.

What is lacking in your life? Could it be that God will use that deficiency to keep you close to Him? Praise Him for it and rest in Him.