One day, as I was pulling my car over to nurse a screaming baby, I saw my other two toddlers napping in the car on the way home after having been at the church for the fourth time that week for bible study, and ministry meetings. I remember feeling overwhelmed, and like, if I kept going at the pace I was, I might be sacrificing the legacy I was dreaming of—a vision God had placed in my heart. And in the moment, on the side of the road, as I was listening to a cassette tape on Seasons in a Woman’s Life, the speaker urged me, the young mom to focus first on my home. It’s the only thing I remember from that talk, but it changed everything and set the course for the next 10 years of my life.
Read more of the story of how Embracing Each Season in Motherhood has been one of my greatest challenges over at The Better Mom.
We hear of women choosing to leave their professions to stay at home with their kids and of others finding ways to work from home so they can have the best of both worlds, but my story is different from both of those, maybe you can relate? You see, like most children I envisioned myself getting a job when I got older. I only had a few friends whose mothers stayed at home moms, so I didn’t really ever envision myself doing that.
In my youth, mission trips opened my eyes to hurt in the world I had never seen before and grew a heart of compassion deep within my soul. Those trips transformed my world perspective and gave me my first vision or dream for my life, to be a missionary.
I went on to University majoring in Social Sciences, Biblical Studies and Minoring in Missions. I participated in Street Evangelism every week downtown, interned in the Pregnancy Resource Center counseling young girls who found themselves pregnant and without hope, and I spent months learning Turkish, studying Islam, learning about their culture and religion before going overseas to serve to teach English as a second language and counseling battered Muslim women.
After my summer in Turkey and Mexico, I worked 3 jobs to pay for my next year’s tuition, met my future husband, and returned to college to be an RA.
I don’t tell you my history to impress you, but to share with you just how great of a desire I had to be useful in the body of Christ, and find His place for me in Kingdom service. And hopefully, you will make the connection that all my pursuits towards missions and serving in the church led me to volunteer and lead ministries at a time commitment level that equated a part-time and sometimes full-time job. I had become addicted to being at church, to learning, and I eagerly jumped into serving.
Even though I had chosen to be a stay at home mom, I wasn’t really at home very often.
Following that year at school, I accepted Isaac’s proposal to marry, transferred to colleges to finish my degree, entered into summer school and began studying Family/Nouthetic Counseling and getting a degree as a Director of Christian Education, all while working full time with Isaac to build our business and planning a wedding. After 4 months of marriage, Isaac and I found out we were expecting our first baby! To be quite honest, I struggled to have joy or be excited. Aside from being sick, I felt like a failure, like a disappointment to others who had such high hopes for me to do something with my life. I sensed it, the disappointment from others. I was becoming ordinary. I was just going to be another college dropout who didn’t finish school because I got pregnant.
Choosing to be a stay at home mom wasn’t part of my plan. I never dreamt of being a stay at home mom, let alone homeschooling. But God has a funny way of refining us and changing the course of our plans.
Fast forward four years. Isaac and I found our church family, settled, had 2 children and were pregnant with our third baby. He was successfully running a business, we had bought our first home, were settled, and loved our life. I had really grown to love being able to be with my kids and by trial and error, and reading TONS of books, I had taught myself how to manage our home well. Over the past few years, I had found my place in serving in the church, but it became increasingly obvious to me that I was addicted to ministry. It fulfilled something in me that being at home did not.
In the short season during my first pregnancy, when I left interning as a youth pastor and we were church shopping and I became depressed. I felt as though I wasn’t fulfilling the purpose God had created me for. I always had a love for God’s people, I felt a sense of dissatisfaction and discontentment when I wasn’t serving.
My heart intentions were pure, I just wanted to serve God out of a love for Him, but I also felt guilt for not using my training, my schooling. And I had a terrible time saying no.
I was discontent just being a wife and mom and found purpose and value in serving.
As a result, I was serving in leadership roles of four different ministries and was participating in the women’s bible study and moms group as well. At one point I counted how many hours I spent driving to church and back home alone to be around 9-10 hours a week and we only lived 30 minutes away!
That leads us to that one day when I was driving home with a screaming baby and napping toddlers in my minivan. As I sat there listening to the tape on Season in a Woman’s Life, I realized that I was not giving my best to my husband or my children. I was giving my best to everyone else. And after having our third baby, I began experiencing some exhaustion from running myself to thin. Sure I was keeping the kid’s routine consistent when we were at home and I was doing a good job managing and cleaning the home, but I knew that if I kept going at the rate I was, my family would suffer long term. I tried to think long term, to envision what our family dynamics could be like if I kept going at the pace I was.
I realized in that moment that their worlds were revolving around my agenda, my commitments, and my dreams.
I was in conflict. I didn’t believe that a child’s schedule should dictate a family, but I also felt like I was in the sin of being selfish. As I was sticking them in 6-11 hours of church daycare a week for all these ministries and activities. I realized we were all living as if I was working part time! They were off schedule, missing regular naps about 2-4 days per week and just the rushing of getting out the door over and over again added an element of stress that really didn’t need to be there. It was as if the Holy Spirit was speaking to my heart, warning me to evaluate what was most important, right now. I didn’t want to look back on their young years with regret.
I know that many women don’t have the choice that I had, but I did have a choice. And back then, I was choosing to be saturated in ministry, because it felt good to serve God, it was familiar to me, and I was good at it. I was in my element and was meeting like-minded friends through the ministries I was involved in! Then it dawned on me from reading Christ’s example in scripture, that servant leadership is usually taking on the hard challenges, the ones that don’t say thank you in words, that don’t necessarily give recognition. The things you most likely don’t want to do.
Being at home all day, just me and the kids was hard and lonely. It sounds funny to say that it was lonely because I had three children, but I remember feeling like I was starving for adult conversation! Have you ever felt that way?
So in one day, I resigned from all of the ministries I was helping lead and serving in. That day part of me died. But a new me, one totally focused on the heart of my home, was raised up. I prayed to God every day for a very long time for Him to grow in me a heart for my home. That I wouldn’t be so drawn out of it, but that I would be able to train and disciple my children well and enjoy it. I prayed that He would fill my discontented heart.
I spent the next ten years taking on only one to two ministry projects at a time, and they were always held open-handed toward God and unattached to my identity. I realized in that long season of not doing ministry that a lot of my identity, my view of myself was wrapped up in what I was doing or had done for God. The Holy Spirit destroyed that false belief in me during that season. I realized that when God called me to do something for Him because He does call us into action, it isn’t going to necessarily be because we are good at it or most prepared for it. In fact, the disciples were ordinary men who did extraordinary things because of the spirit of God within them.
If we are meant to do it, it might be hard, and we may face opposition, but it will also enhance our other relationships and our main priorities, never sacrifice them.
I believe wholeheartedly that we are to model for our children what being an active member of the Body of Christ looks like. But I learned to embrace that motherhood and being a wife is servanthood. And it is an important role in the Body of Christ, to be intentionally raising the next generation of leaders of Christ. I realized that I could be on a mission trip in my own home. And that if I did, the fruit would be generational, and it wouldn’t spoil.
I told myself that one day there would be a season that would be more appropriate for me to run a moms group, but it wasn’t when I was a young mom myself.
Might I share something with you that I believe we have backward in the church today? Now this isn’t based on what I see any one church, this is an observation I believe I have gleaned from visiting the masses over the years.
There is a lack of Titus 2 Women rising up today. Our culture is so brainwashed into thinking that once you retire you can relax, that many women who should be serving in children’s ministries, teaching the younger women to love their husbands and children are simply failing to find purpose or feeling intimidated by today’s generation of women. The older women have believed a lie that they don’t have anything worth sharing or teaching. And that is NOT from God, but straight from the enemy. They are the ones that are in the season where they can offer the time without sacrificing the time with their own. It is when older women do not rise up and lead, that younger women feel the need to.
Likewise, the young women are not off the hook. We need to value the advice and wisdom of the generations who have gone before us. Sure, many might not have been staying at home moms, but honestly, the best most productive mentoring I have ever gleaned wasn’t so much What To Do, but rather What Not To Do. It was in meeting with them and hearing their regrets about how much they allowed activities to pull their families apart that impacted me to crave a legacy of deeper relationships in my family. We need to value these segregate spiritual mothers and grandmothers. It is God’s design for His family that they lead!
A side note:
I hope you hear my heart in sharing my story with you. I don’t believe that the course my life took is what God calls us all too. He isn’t cookie cutter like that. But I do hope that if the holy spirit is tugging on your heart to put your family first, to really jump in both feet and dedicate a season just to your family, that you will listen to His call on your life. I am so glad I did. Let’s live with no regrets, Amen?!
We all need to be in prayer and support of one another and the unique callings God places on our hearts. We need each other to be a team and to allow one another to embrace the seasons we are in. If you are a mom who is struggling with embracing the season God has you in right now, I would love to pray with you. If you are serving in children’s ministry because you feel guilty, like you need to do your part, rather than feeling the call from God to teach and train the next generation, I urge you to take time and pray about if this is the ministry for you right now. Pray for and with your husband, talk to the pastor or an elder, and get wise counsel for your season and circumstance. God has called you first to minister to your family, do it well sister.