To All You Moms Out There

To all you moms out there:

I sat on my sofa in the same spot, with the same countenance as I had thousands of times before, lifting my children one by one to the Lord.

“Lord, I plead the blood of Jesus over Katie, Ellie, Joseph, Troy, Joshua, Sally, Charlie, Owen, Drew, and Rorie…” Over the years, as the number of my children grew through births, adoption, and marriage I simply tacked on names. This stream of names flows easily over my tongue as I have spoken this prayer aloud and silently many times each day. Many of my prayers are covered like a blanket over my children as a corporate plea.

“Thank you that no weapon formed against them will prosper and every tongue that rises against them will be shown to be in the wrong, as they walk in Your ways and Your truth…”

“Protect their mind, their bodies, their spirits, their souls, and their emotions.”

“May they hear a voice behind them saying this is the way, walk in it.”

“May they have the fruit of the Spirit, which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control…”

On and on, these scripture-based prayers flow naturally over my tongue because of the frequency with which I have prayed.

Sometimes, as my Mama-Anxiety grows for one reason or another, my prayers become bolder, louder even. And this boldness comes for my benefit, to remind myself of what I know and Who I believe.

I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.

                                                                        2 Timothy 1:12

I often must recount and remind myself of the promises of God.

“Lord, You said: ‘I will contend with those who contend with you and your children I will save’. I believe You, Lord, help me with my unbelief.”

“Lord, You said: ‘All your children will be taught of the Lord and great will be the peace of your children’. You said ALL, Lord. I believe You, Lord, help me with my unbelief.”

Sometimes, I remind myself of the strength and authority that is ours in Christ.

“Lord, thank you that our weapons are not carnal but they are mighty for the pulling down of strongholds. I therefore cast down imaginations and destroy speculations and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God. I believe You, Lord, help me with my unbelief.”

And sometimes, after all of this, I still feel needy and afraid. And that is what I felt as I sat in that familiar place on my sofa that day.

“Lord, I need a word from You. I need the peace to know that this current worry for my child is a blip on the screen of life. I need to know that You are with us and that You are hearing my prayers.”

And then I opened my Bible. The assigned reading for that day was Isaiah 40. I have read this chapter countless times over the years. But my eye paused on verse 11, and I saw this Living Word in a new, fresh way which breathed life and hope and peace to my worried and troubled Mama-Heart.

He will feed his flock like a shepherd.
    He will carry the lambs in his arms,
holding them close to his heart.
    He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young.

Isaiah 40:11

My lambs—my children—are carried by the Great Shepherd. They are safe in His arms and He holds them close to His heart. What relief!

And as the their mother, He gently leads me along with them.

For the first time, I stopped to think about mother sheep. We as believers are often referred to in scripture as sheep being led by Jesus, the Great Shepherd. But I had never thought specifically of mother sheep. Mother sheep can nuzzle their young. They can be near their young. But they cannot carry their young. They can’t hold them up. They are not physically capable of doing so. They were not created nor designed by the Creator to do so. Oh, we try. We try really hard to carry our kids along, carry their burdens, make life easier for them, stress-free, failure-free, pain-free. But we can’t.

But Jesus, the Great Shepherd can. He can carry them. He can protect them. He can help them. He can hold them close to His perfect, powerful heart. And then in His great compassion, He turns gently to us, knowing our Mother-Heart, and leads us along as well.

As peace filled my heart, praise filled my mouth. I praised Jesus for His provisions and His promises. I praised Him for carrying my children and comforting me. I praised Him for helping me, once again, in my unbelief. I once again, for the millionth time, gave my children to the only One who can carry them. Praise God that it is not up to me.


I Didn’t Make It to All of His Games

My precious son is getting married. In three months, three days, he will be officially grown and gone. We are beyond happy with his choice of bride and feel that she is one of those blatant answers to my prayers that God would do far more than we could ever hope or dream or imagine. We are blessed, indeed, with the maturity and godliness we see coming from those two. They love Jesus. And I thank my Jesus each day for that abundant answer to my prayers.

But there is one thing that the enemy of my soul keeps bringing up in my mind as I reflect on his growing up years. And though it may sound silly to most reading this post, I believe that some of you will relate.

I didn’t make it to all of his games.

There. I said it. For some reason, that is the source of my Mama Guilt. You see, I always envisioned myself front and center at every event each one of my children would participate in. I thought I would be “that mom”. The one who volunteered to be homeroom mom. (This only happened three times in all my children’s combined school years, which so far has equaled 62 school years, given the whole seven kids and all.)

I thought I would be the one with the healthy snacks, the homemade valentines, the carefully prepared lunches, and of course dinner on the table every. single. night. Instead, I was the one who sent the tacky valentines, most often signed by me because it was quicker. I was the one who used paper plates so I wouldn’t have to wash the dishes. I was the one who made my kids fix their own sack lunches if they didn’t want to eat in the cafeteria, because let’s face it, it is far easier to give them lunch money (or now prepay online!) than it is to go to the grocery for all the special requests they have, prepare the what they actually want to eat for lunch, and do it all before 7:25a.m. Nope. Didn’t happen at my house.

Recently, there was an article circulating around entitled “Why Parents Should Go to All of Their Kids Games”. Each time I saw it being shared I cringed. That Mama Guilt would rear its ugly head and throw fiery darts at my mind. Because guess what? It is too late. I can’t go back and go to every game.

Actually, it wasn’t that I totally agreed with the article. I think supporting our children should be an upmost priority. However, I think the mentality that we should drop everything and focus solely on them has potential to create self-centered adults. It also has the potential to create unrealistic expectations for them when they are parents. But the truth is this: I just couldn’t do it all. I wasn’t strong enough. I didn’t have enough stamina. I didn’t have enough emotional or physical energy to do it all. But maybe because I couldn’t do it all, my kids will receive some comfort when they come to the realization that they can’t do it all either.

That is the thing that rubs a raw spot in my mind. I couldn’t do it all. I tried, I really did. But having a lot of kids (or let’s face it, even if you don’t have a lot of kids) is very humbling. I was the late mom. I was the scattered mom. I was the one who missed the best play of the game because I was taking another child to the bathroom. I was the one who actually cheered an entire game for a child that was not my own, thinking he was the whole time. You see, they were built the same. Same weight, same height. And I had somehow forgotten that my son had been given a different number that year. He was supposed to be number 14. He had been number 14 from the time he was in T-Ball. But oh, no. They had to give the number 14 jersey to someone else that year—someone who was the same weight and height as my son. I am sure the other moms were wondering why I jumped up and cheered at every play of number 14 and sat silently eating my chips when my own son was up to bat. Lord, help me! I couldn’t do it all!

But when faced with that reality I hear a deeper truth whispering in my soul. Jesus comes softly, sweetly and calms my Mama Guilt. I hear him actually saying, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

“But, Lord, I yelled at my kids sometimes.” And I hear whispered, “But you also taught them about Me.”

“But, Lord, my words were sometimes impatient, even angry at times.” And I hear whispered, “But you spoke My words over them every day in prayer.”

“But, Lord, I wasn’t at every game”. And I hear whispered, “But I was. And because you pointed them to Me, they knew they were never forsaken.”

“But, Lord, I wasn’t the perfect parent that I always imagined I would be.” And I hear whispered, “But I am the Perfect Parent. Because you weren’t perfect, they relied more on Me. Because you pointed them to the Perfect Parent, they know Me. In your weakness, I am strong.”

And with those whisperings, my mind and heart settles. Yes, there were things I would have done differently. But I know my children know I love them. They know Jesus in a personal way. They love me and more importantly, they love Jesus. So, I guess in light of that great truth, the other one—the Mama Guilt truth—simply doesn’t seem so important after all.

 

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

                                                                                    3 John 4


Thoroughly Equipped: Day In and Day Out

Today’s reading includes Deuteronomy 11:1-12:32, Luke 8:22-39, Psalm 70:1-5, Proverbs 12:4.

In our text today, we come across a beloved passage, which serves as a great guide in parenting.

18 “So commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these words of mine. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. 19 Teach them to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. 20 Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, 21 so that as long as the sky remains above the earth, you and your children may flourish in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors.

                                                                        Deuteronomy 11:18-20

We tend to read this in the context of a parenting formula.  But if you read this passage closely, it is a way of life.  We are called to teach our children, but how will they learn?

They will learn by living life with us.

By seeing our relationship with Christ day in and day out.

By hearing our conversations with them and with others as we go about our days.

They learn because they listen.  We don’t think they hear us, but they do.  We don’t think they notice, but they do.  So, the trick to passing down our faith to our children is to make sure we have faith.  If we want our children to follow Christ, we must make sure we are following Christ.  We must talk to them about our faith, our love for Christ, our hope in His promises.

A Sunday-only faith does not give a model which our children can follow.  An everyday faith does.  Our investment in our own faith—through studying His Word, through prayer, through worship—is an investment in the souls of our children.

Lord, make me faithful to You.  Give me time and desire to study your Word.  Give me a heart of praise.  May your praise be on my lips and in my heart.  May Your joy give me strength.  And in all of this, may my children see You in me.  And may they be hungry for more of You.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.


Starts Tomorrow!

Thanks to our good friends at First Presbyterian Church in Corinth, Mississippi, my husband, Mont, and I had the opportunity to teach Sunday school for the month of July.  We loved the fellowship with friends, old and new.  We also loved the fact that it made us study the particular topic we chose to teach.  For the month of September, I will share the content of that study, which we first shared with our Corinthian friends.

Join me tomorrow, September 1, for a month long study entitled, Abundant Life–Gifts of the Good Shepherd.  And please invite your friends!

You can subscribe to my blog by adding your email address on the home page.  Be sure to confirm the subscription when you receive the initial email.

Or you can like my author page, Sara W. Berry, on Facebook.  The posts will be linked there each day.

Thanks, Friends!

Sara


He Sees

For all you mothers out there:

Yesterday, I traveled to Birmingham to be with Katie, my baby girl, on her birthday. Yes, she is still my baby girl, though we celebrated 22 years together. As most girls would, we thought it fitting to treat ourselves to a pedicure in a nice salon.

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While we soaked our feet and turned up the massage chair, I looked around the salon at the various women of all ages. As usual, I began to wonder what their stories were. I am fascinated by people’s stories. Everyone has one. God is the master author of each and every one. Every story has conflicts and drama. Usually, there is some comedy thrown in for good measure. But the Master Author continues to write our stories every day, and if we trust Him, we can be confident that the story will have a stellar ending—much more than we could imagine.

In this vein of thinking, my eye fell upon a young woman with two children who had just entered the salon. The children, both curly head girls, were beautiful. They had big bows placed strategically to the side to keep back the curls. They had precious matching outfits. They both looked to be similar ages, so, I assumed they were either twins or at least born very close together.

While both children were beautiful, what caught my attention was the one in the wheelchair. The one who had her eyes closed, and would sometimes loose control of her head causing her beautiful blond curls to cover her entire face. My heart squeezed at the sight.

And then my attention turned to the mother. She, too, was beautiful. But she looked worn out, haggard, and a bit overwhelmed. She was dressed in gym shorts and a t-shirt, hair in a ponytail, and no make-up. And did I mention she was beautiful? I thought to myself, “I am so glad she took time out to do something for herself.”

In two seconds, I had walked through the past thirty minutes with her. I could picture the hard work that it took to get there, dressing two little girls, one of whom could not help at all; packing a “diaper” bag, years after a diaper bag should have been unnecessary; loading the girls into car seats; loading the wheelchair. I remembered how exhausting it was to simply get everyone in the car. Only, I struggled with strollers, not wheelchairs.

And since I could imagine what her past minutes had been, I began to imagine what she must be thinking at that moment. Which section has the most room for the wheelchair? I began to look around trying to select a spot for her.   I saw her speak to the receptionist, and then point to the wheelchair. Yes, I thought, they will help her find the right spot so maybe she can relax for just a moment.

My thoughts continued to the next set of issues. How will these little girls keep entertained while their mother gets a manicure? I hoped she had thought through this one. I hoped the bag hanging from the wheelchair was filled with snacks and toys and an Ipad—at least for the girl that could walk. The other precious angel still had not opened her eyes. Her head had fallen two more times, so the mother had titled the wheelchair back to reclining.

I turned away for a moment to answer a question about what color I wanted my toes painted. When I turned back, I saw both mother and healthy daughter sitting side by side in the manicurist chairs. Only the little girl was the only one with soaking fingers. The little girl was the one getting the manicure. And the mother with tired eyes was watching and beaming with delight. It took a moment for me to comprehend the simple sacrifice playing out before me. A wave of emotion swept over me. I wanted to cry and hug that mother and tell her how amazing she is.

I wanted to shout across the room, to this complete stranger whom I suddenly loved,

“I SEE YOU!”

“I SEE YOU!”

“I see the sacrifices you are making every day.

I see how tired you are.

I see how difficult it is.

I see that you are holding on and making the most of heart-wrenching circumstances.

I see your courage and your strength.

I see your joy, which is so obviously displayed as you give your little girl the manicure you deserve.”

Like a slide show of snapshots my mind traveled back 5 years or so and glimpsed her life. I imagined a beautiful young couple walking the aisle in front of family and friends vowing to stick together in sickness and in health. I guessed they never dreamed they would need to stick together in sickness and health of their children.

I imagined the day they knew something was wrong. Was it during pregnancy this syndrome was discovered? Or was it later, after months of wondering why her baby was not developing like her sister? Whenever it was, I can imagine the horror and grief when she realized that this information totally changed the course of her life.

My Katie saw me looking and without words, I could tell her mind was following the storyline, too. We looked at each other, on the 22nd anniversary of her birth, and she said quietly, “That could have been me.” I nodded as I remembered my own story. Long, hard labor, cord wrapped tightly around her tiny neck, the rush of doctors and the flurry of the emergency team.

Then, the silence. Holding her and rocking her and wondering what the effects of oxygen deprivation may be.

Twenty-two years later, I praised God that we were spared the storyline I saw at the manicure station across the room. I knew God had been faithful to protect Katie, who is about to graduate college with a double major.

And yet, the truth is, God is equally faithful to the beautiful woman with a different story. In fact, she must be very beloved of the Lord to be trusted to handle this difficult and beautiful life she is living.

I believe He, too, wants to shout to her, “I SEE YOU!” And this is what He says to her and to each of us: I will be faithful each and every day.

Together, my friends, let us declare the truth found in His Word:

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning;  great is your faithfulness.  I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”                                                                                           Lamentations 3:22-24

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