Seven Ways my Children are Missionaries to Me

Becoming a parent is such a huge blessing. While children can try every last nerve, they can also make your heart swell in the very same moment. Something I didn't necessary anticipate was how much the relationship that I have with my children would parallel my relationship with God. It's like my children are little missionaries-- whether they know it or not! They remind me of what my Heavenly Father has done for me. They are an example of what my faith should look like. And so much more! So I have come up with a little listy-list to show you examples of what I mean.

  1. I often have to break up fights between siblings. This includes telling someone to say "I'm sorry" and someone else to say "I forgive you" in return. What a great reminder of confessing our sins to our Heavenly Father and of the awesome forgiveness we freely receive in return.
  2. Sometimes I have to apologize to my children for something I have done. After telling them sorry, everything returns to normal almost instantly. They are so quick to forgive -- just like our Heavenly Father is quick to forgive us! 
  3. It never ceases to make me smile when I hear my kids singing while they are playing on their own. Often it includes them belting their favorite songs they learned at Sunday school or school. What an example to be bold and unashamed of our faith -- so much so that we can shout it at the top of our lungs with enthusiasm! 
  4. Do you ever get annoyed by having to ask your child to do the same thing over and over again before they finally do it? It really is a great reminder of how much patience our God has for us! How many times have we sinned against our Father -- over and over even! He so patient -- slow to anger and abounding in love. 
  5. In the frenzy of lunch, sometimes my children are the ones that remind me we have to pray still. What a blessing to have them as a reminder to give thanks! 
  6.  On Sunday my kids are so excited for Sunday school. What great role models for me so that I can be just as excited! We have a great blessing and a great privilege to learn about Jesus as often as we do! 
  7. After a long, trying day with my kids, even if it was the worst of worst days, I still love them. Completely. Our Heavenly Father will always love us, despite our many shortcomings, no matter what. Completely.

Once you start making these connections, they can be kind of hard to miss. I love this because it's a constant, daily (sometimes hourly!) reminder for me. Being reminded of God, his love, and all that he has done for me is a lovely way to carry on my days. 

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Shine Like Stars (and Fireflies)

My garden has a bunch of fireflies that hang out in my plants during the day, and then glitter up at night. Lots of them. It’s very magical, the more lights the better. Those little bugs always remind me of the section in Philippians about shining like stars, fireflies always have. It also reminds me how a group of us shining our lights together can be a beautiful thing. As Christian women, this can be us shining together.

Do we shine together, though? It’s tough. The mom lifestyle of our generation includes a healthy amount of online research to get a handle on all the latest data and theories about raising babies. Popular topics include car seats, sunscreen, diapers, food, screen time, education. The list goes on. We all do this reading because we love our kids and have the best of intentions. As Christians, we understand we should shine like stars. We understand we should be examples to the world around us. It is really easy, though, to take the wisdom of the world and infuse it into our Christian wisdom. It is really easy to decide that the decisions we make in our own families, in our Christian freedom (the areas God has not specifically spelled out), are the best decisions and if people are wise, they will do exactly the same. It is at this point we should really pause and think about what we are doing.

I found my dog's toy laying in yard one night, bug-eyed and squished on every side. I relate to this Mr. Pig toy most days. Don't most mamas?

I found my dog's toy laying in yard one night, bug-eyed and squished on every side. I relate to this Mr. Pig toy most days. Don't most mamas?

This is the point at which mom-shaming often enters the picture, even for Christian mothers. Mom-shaming is really any kind of condescending attitude towards other moms. It’s a bit of adult bullying, passive-aggressive comments, snarky posts on social media, posting pictures of our impossible-to-follow diet foods along with a pat-myself-on-the-back caption, sharing tons and tons of articles about all the ways to get the mom stuff down to perfection (implying we have implemented all these things personally). When we slip into the guilty pleasure of mom-shaming each other – our spiritual immaturity is showing. Isn’t it true that when we are putting others down it is because of insecurities of our own? Whether we are realizing it or not, we feel a little taller when we stomp down on others. Yet, this behavior doesn’t gain us respect with others and it has nothing to with shining like stars. It is a good way to dim our own lights and those of others. Let’s give each other a break.

Jesus spent his time befriending sinners, amazing grace behavior which he credits to our accounts. His friends never had it all together, many of them dealing with big issues. And yet, we turn around and cut each other down over small things like iPad time and gluten in the name of being good shining examples of motherhood. Love and acceptance can be elusive among moms, that shouldn’t be. We all stand in the same grace.

This is what fireflies do all day. They are pretty relaxed.

This is what fireflies do all day. They are pretty relaxed.

Holding each other to motherhood perfection is not what it means to be shining stars. That is, in reality, just a modern-day Pharisee game in new organic packaging. Just as the Pharisees of Jesus’ day loved their own longs lists of rules, we construct additional rules around motherhood, levels of perfection. Even though they may initially be well-intentioned actions aimed at health and goodness, our little ones watch us getting caught up in this self-righteous behavior and then Facebook boasting about it. So stressful, heavy, exhausting. Spiritually exhausting.

To be a shining star is something much more joyful. It is something lighter, happier, and really isn’t about our own shininess or perfection. To be a shining star is something that happens because you hold firmly to the word of life. It is to love the gospel. It is to spend so much time with your Jesus that all the noise of social media motherhood guidance fades away into the lesser priorities to be handled later, if necessary. It is to hold dear the wisdom given by God (not the internets) through his word for life. Real life. Forever life.

While shining like stars, holding to the word, we will begin to see each Christian woman for her beautiful spiritual gifts before her faults because we see her has a sister in Christ through eyes of faith. Words of encouragement in those gifts will come to mind before the sharp criticism - because that is what the Holy Spirit can work into our hearts through God’s Word. He smooths out our sharp edges and fills us with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and self-control. All of those things. To each of us, as a gift. Along with that gift, confidence in ourselves as unique, loved children of God.

…for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose…. Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.

- Philippians 2:13,15

It is God who makes us into shining stars, everything we need for that is in his word. We will not find the ability to be a shining star within the collective mothering wisdom of our generation. We will not be stars by just being really good moms. We will not show our children how to be shining stars if we use any source of light other than the amazing sacrifice and love of Jesus. Fall in love with that gospel again and again and your light will shine. Your kids will see, other moms will see. The more lights, the better.

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.
Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain. But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.

 

- Philippians 2:12-18

Hello There, Missionary Mom!

Today, I just want to share an observation.

Through my first decade as a mom, I’ve had opportunity to get to know women in several churches, in a few states. I’ve seen a pattern and I want to call it out, because it’s awesome. Often, flying under the radar in our churches, are some fantastic mom missionaries.

That noisy kid section in the back of your church is home to some great missionaries. In their arms are little ones they are bringing up in Jesus, next to them might be a mom they met at library story time. Sitting in her diaper bag is a cell phone with a text from her neighbor she’s been encouraging through a tough time.

The mom experience creates connections between people that would otherwise not exist – across lifestyles, personality types, economic barriers, across cultures. Before having kids, many of us set out for careers or higher education. We started to develop adult identities geared towards professionalism of some sort. Or maybe some go for a trendy hipster vibe? A very high number of us promised never to buy mini-vans.

But, then the baby arrives. The logistics of getting a giant rear facing car seat into a two door coupe seem insurmountable. Automatic sliding doors begin to hold a certain appeal. Do I buy disposable diapers or go green with cloth? What baby food does this kid eat first? What happens when he gets a fever? What’s attachment parenting? What’s Love and Logic? My professional clothes are NOT fitting any more. The need to chat with others that are sorting through the same questions has developed.

This cute meme is from Red Tricycle.

This cute meme is from Red Tricycle.

At this point, our identities start to shift and that can be really really hard. Sometimes quite awkward. We try to blend our mom selves with our previously trendy adult selves. We have an endless amount of questions on how to raise our littles. We suddenly have things in common with women we did not relate to before.

And how neat is that?

I’ve seen God using this time in several women’s lives to do amazing things. At this stage there can be both a need to connect with other women, and a need to continue some sort of meaningful work. Moms can become experts on community connections. They know what’s going on in the community, what families do in town for fun, how they hear about it, what families need, and how moms in town think about life. Whether moms decide to work outside the home, be stay-at-home moms, or work from home, those babies get them out and into places of connection.

Soccer camp

Playgroup

Daycare

Homeschool co-op

The Y

Story time

The farmers market

PTA

Summer camp

Raising kids in Jesus is a profound mission in and of itself. While doing it, some moms disciple their kids by showing all the ways Jesus can be shared with neighbors through the week in practical hands-on ways. I’ve seen moms starting non-profits to help those in need with their little ones by their side. They type up their mom-blog stories of faith. They head out to soccer camp and invite their new-found community friends on over to church playgroup. Some even pop a baby in a stroller to knock on their neighbors doors with invites to church events. They go to conferences to grow in faith. They hop on planes for mission trips.

Moms meet moms, which turns into families connecting with families, then families connecting families to Jesus.

Ladies, I see you and I think you’re special. I like you.

So, if you hadn’t noticed that happening, now you know. You can thank God along with me for what he’s doing through his church – and this is just one of many many things. It’s a blessing for this generation and the next.

I thank my God every time I remember you…
— Philippians 1:3