Why My Kids Aren’t “My Whole World”

I love kids. You don’t have seven of them if you hate children. For as much as they can drive you up the wall and challenge everything you ever believed about humanity, they are amazing!

We love their sense of humor and their imaginations and the funny things they say. We adore the snuggles and kisses and “I love yous”. We breathe deep each stage, enjoying their milestones and cherishing the memories of their better moments.

Seeing as these little sweeties need so much of our time and attention- especially at the beginning of their lives- it is so easy to let their little lives consume us. They can become our whole world.

My kids have been my whole world many times. The most obvious time was after the twins were born. It seemed for at least a year that there was time for nothing else but them! Feeding two, changing two, bathing two, cherishing two… and then add the other five that still needed a mom as well.

There are seasons where we must spend a majority of our time wearing the hat of Mom. It is a worthy and God-blessed position to hold. But there does come a line where motherhood and family becomes idolatry.

Idolatry is when we put any person or thing or idea above the Creator. The basic commandment is Exodus 20:3- “You shall have no other gods before me.” The sentence presupposes that something or someone else can be put before God.

Sure, there are obvious examples. Wooden or metal sculptures representing lesser deities being bowed to and venerated. In Luke 16:14-15, Jesus calls out the Pharisees for making money an idol. Verse 13 points out that money can be served instead of God.

Matthew 6:21 tells us that what we place the most value in is where our heart is. Now, don’t mistake me here- our kids are precious. More precious than possessions and fame. Worth the investment of our time and energy and prayers…. but should they be our entire heart? Our whole world?

It really comes down to this: who do we love most and how is that apparent in our lives? In one of the harshest portions of Scripture, Jesus seemingly puts off his flesh and blood and declares that whoever follows God wholeheartedly is His family. (Luke 8:38-39) Never mind the countless times He talks about leaving family to take His cross.

So let’s set this straight. Your kids are an eternal work. They are precious souls you have been loaned to bring up in the ways of their Creator. You are a steward of souls-just as your parents were for you. You teach them the ways of God through your lifestyle, speech, and behavior towards them.

This is a vital calling. It is crucial to civilization and the eternal purposes of God. But parenthood is not the only calling you have. And I think, amidst the pouring of ourselves into these little ones, we need to remember God comes first.

When God comes before kids, we are going to make time to learn more about Him. We will make corporate worship a priority for every member of our family instead of making our kids the excuse for sitting out. We will say yes to the non kid tasks God has for us: whether it is discipling that new believer, or singing in the choir, or cleaning the church. Even if it takes time away from our babies.

This is all part of your training of their souls too- they need God first to be patterned in your life so they know what it looks like for their lives. They need to know that they are not the center of anyone’s world, and if they want to be great in God’s Kingdom, they must become a servant.

We have raised a generation that is, by and large, convinced that they are the center of the universe. They believe their parents are there for them alone. When diminished in any way- which will happen- their self worth crumbles. And the rest of the world is held hostage to maintaining their fragile egos.

You see, this idea of family idolatry isn’t an either/or situation. You can and should love your family. They ought to have your time and attention and affection in ways that no other earthly thing should. But not above God. And your utter devotion to God is not to the detriment of you family, but to their ultimate benefit.

I say that as someone who has been there. I have made my kids the excuse. I have not modeled a servant of Christ for them perfectly. And God gives grace… so much grace. But I fooled myself into thinking that my only job on earth was to be their mom… nothing else. And, eventually, the prospect is maddening because I knew that I was created to be their mom- and other things as well.

I’m a wife. I’m a very part-time accounts receivable person. I’m a writer. I’m a Sunday school teacher. I’m a comedian (in my head). I’m an Uber driver (for the kids). I’m a sewer and baker and historian and counselor and…. I’ve got other callings. They help me to be a better mom to my kids, but ultimately they help me to be a better servant for my Lord.

But guilt. Guilt will do a number on you. Make you do things that make no sense. Create a martyr instead of a mentor. I have thought that it is selfish of me to need a break from the kids. I have thought that getting together for a Bible study or coffee with friends was not something I needed. That my kids needed me more.

Truth reveals. It reveals that, in my case, I have plenty of time with my kids. I’m a stay at home parent. The few hours they are out of my sight are not likely to undo the countless hours I have poured into them. They need a mom who has her cup filled with Jesus more than they need her to watch another movie or play another game with them.

Another truth revealed: I am not raising children to stay children forever. They will become adults before you know it. And yeah, we can share lessons and formally teach them things about being an adult. The most they will learn is from the patterns you show in your own life. So what kind of adult do you want your kids to be? Model that, as best you can. You want them to make no time for individual pursuits? You want them not to be a faithful church member? You want them to be a taker and not a giver?

And since we must raise kids to be adults someday, we do have to teach them independence from us, painful though it is. Why? I, personally, want to be able to sleep when my kids leave the house. If I don’t start giving them independence at appropriate intervals, I will always doubt that they are able to handle the real world. Brief separation is healthy. Most seasoned parents never share this difficult but real part of raising children.

So, yes, I’m going to say it: Your kids shouldn’t be your whole world. It isn’t healthy for them and it isn’t healthy for you. Point your kids to the One we should be doing all things for- let Him be everything to you.

The simple and hard answer to having a different life

How is it possible to have your heart so full and yet so broken all at the same time? I don’t quite understand it, but I am there.

I am honed in on the gifts around me: my beautiful, unique kids. My handsome, loving husband and our wonderful marriage. My home. My family. My church family. My relationship with God. And so much more.

Reading that, the temptation is to think “Wow! Leah’s life is so together. Pinterest perfect, really…”

But that is far from the truth. Every soul has its’ cross to bear. Mine is not yours.

And at the same time that I count my blessings, I am also so broken for the needs of others, as well as the needs I still have.

Anxiety. Abuse. Broken homes. Depression. Eating disorders. Guilt. Hidden addiction. Phobias. Poverty. And so much more.

So, what is it? Did I win the genetic/universal lottery, that my life is the way it is? I can count major personal crises on one hand (though I expect them everyday). We have normal problems. Are my struggles just lame, or is my perspective just too sunny? What makes the difference?

My answer will make many cringe. It seems too simple, too self-righteous and too blasé. I can tell you- the answer is neither simple nor difficult. The answer is entirely based not on my own goodness, but is in every way a part of me.

Jesus.

I acknowledged my reality many years ago. I am a sinner. I am not enough. I don’t measure up. Seeing the dark reality for what it is gives one a desire for resolution, because nothing is settled- it’s all upset.

Only God gives us that resolution we long for. The dark sin that is our upsetting reality was taken care of by Jesus Christ. He took care of our sin problem by not only taking our punishment, but defeating our punishment.

When I depended on Christ’s sacrifice- not my ability to believe, or being moral, or even being churchy- His life became mine. His goodness, His enoughness, His perfection all became mine to claim. I stand forgiven.

But this is not just a moment in time- it is a lifestyle. Choosing Christ has to happen daily, hourly, minutely, secondly (and firstly too!). Putting aside my own reasoning and ways and putting on Christ’s ways is a lifelong pursuit and commitment.

This choosing Jesus changed my life trajectory. It morphed my future. Instead of choosing a career that built me up, I committed to one that built up others. Instead of marrying the guy who said all the things I wanted to hear and did all the things I wanted him to do, I picked the man who encouraged me to be more like Jesus.

It goes even deeper. The thoughts that I want to think about others, thoughts based entirely on feeling with no fact, I must choose not to dwell on. The fear and pain that I want hold tight to, I must let go. The real life problems that I want to freak out over and fix any way I can’t, I must give over to God and follow His commands for handling them.

It is that simple and that difficult. It is entirely based not on my own goodness, but is in every way a part of me.

Jesus.

And lest you think that I think I have arrived, nothing could be farther from the truth. Sometimes, too often, I fail to choose Jesus.

The unkind word spoken in anger. The hand wringing over the small and big problems. The priorities out of whack. The times I think my way will work better than God’s way.

I know who I am. I also know who God is. And even when I don’t choose Jesus, at any given time, a course correct is available and God will always help and accept me in that turn.

So I am spilling my heart to say this- there is always a way to course correct and choose Jesus. It’s a simple choice that may be difficult to execute. It is a choice based not on you and your abilities or lack thereof.

When choosing Jesus, I find no guilt or regret or shame. I find no need to overthink or have absolute control. There is peace. There is joy. There is an abundance in spirit that is hard to explain. Even when life gets really rough. The benefits to my soul far outweigh the difficulty in choosing Jesus.

Enough is enough.

This is a scenario that happens often in my home. A child does something- a concert, a game, a project, a test- and they do well at it. Or maybe they don’t. Being the mom I am, I either acknowledge their achievement or cheer them on in their progress.

For some reason, the response is the same:

“I messed up. This part didn’t go right and I didn’t understand that.”

“Yeah, but it isn’t a A.”

Photo by twinsfisch on Unsplash

Weird, huh? We don’t expect perfection in our children, but they sure do expect it from themselves!

I think it is just in our human nature to want to be good at everything we try. That life should go our way. And when it doesn’t we think that we are a complete and total failure.

And why wouldn’t we feel this way when we are inundated with the pictures of a perfect life on a daily basis. Not only that, but when we do put a little of ourselves out for people to see and they immediately give their $.02 on our smidgen of life we share with them. Because they know better. Obviously.

It is so easy to believe we are useless, rejected, a failure in the world and not worth the air we breathe. Just look at the current rates for depression and anxiety… it’s becoming the norm instead of the exception.

The truth of the matter is we are not enough.

I am not enough.

Oh, I am fully aware of the mantra, and I am calling it out. Because enough is enough, and I in myself am not enough no matter how much I repeat it.

In and of myself, this is true. I am not perfect. I will never be perfect on earth. I am incomplete. The person in the mirror looking at me is not my whole self, no matter where I search, what I do, or how I define myself.

Photo by Taylor Smith on Unsplash

And in this moment of rawness, it is not where we turn to, but who we turn to that matters. We look to Christ. He is enough. He is perfect. And the best part? He can complete us. (Col. 2:10)

It is Christ who takes us where we are and makes us more than we ever thought possible. He alone takes our imperfections and uses them for a purpose! He takes the branches of our lives that are not growing and prunes us into something productive. (John 15:1-8)

When we look to self for solutions and success, we will eventually run dry of satisfaction and contentment. But when we walk with our Completer- He fills us with joy and peace and satisfaction that lasts.

Remember the woman at the well? She felt not enough. Going out in the heat of the day possibly to avoid the chattering of ladies who deemed her not enough as well.We often avoid the truth when it is presented in a hurtful way. It’s understandable.

Jesus gets into a conversation with her and reveals that, yes, she is indeed incomplete- looking for fulfillment in a series of broken relationships. We need more people who are willing to share truth in love and without the bitter venom of a condemnation we are powerless to carry out.

But Jesus didn’t leave her sitting in a puddle of guilt. That woman discovered a water that would satisfy eternally. That water was Christ, the promised Messiah. And when she found Him? She was eager to share the Living Water with all in her community- even her enemies.

Photo by John Wilson on Unsplash

Because, when we find the secret to completeness- to enoughness- we can’t keep it to ourselves. Nor are we meant to. The focus becomes, not on us and our lack, but on Christ and His mission. We forget about ourselves and whether we are enough because we remember who Jesus is and that without Him we can do nothing.

Dear Sister, there is so much more to the walk of faith than navel gazing, placing false expectations on ourselves and eventually bemoaning our existence. We were never meant to be complete without a relationship with our Creator- that separation that happened at the fall did more than just make us aware- it made us ashamed. But thanks be to God for His unspeakable Gift! He sent His Son to make a way for true fellowship again. He made a path for completeness that is found in trusting in what He did on the cross.

We want to make it more complex. There’s got to be a secret Scripture or 12 step process…. but there isn’t. Realizing Christ not only is our enough, but that He defines enough, and that He declares us to be enough needs to be enough for us. Repeat it daily. Remind the despairing. Reconcile the lost. Christ makes us enough.

Read it yourself: Samaritan Woman’s account is in John 4:1-42.

Embracing the Discomfort of Job

I’ve got a confession to make here, readers: the book of Job terrifies me a little bit. It’s uncomfortable. As I read my Bible through this year, I almost wanted to skip Job completely.

If my suspicions are right, many of you probably agree with me. There’s so much to wrestle with- God’s relationships to His creation, including satan. The idea of why terrible things happen to good people. How does one really comfort the comfortless?It’s a book brimming with tough things and I can’t wrap my head around all these concepts, it seems.

You see, Job had a hedge of favor from God because he favored God. He had great wealth. A large family. A heart of true devotion to the Creator. Power. Fame. The man seemingly had it all.

God and satan have a discussion about Job and God agrees to remove His hedge for a season to test Job. God was accused by satan of pouring blessing on Job, making it easy for him to obey God. (In reality, Job was obeying God and God was blessing him for his obedience.)

So Job categorically loses everything. His wealth. His children. His respect. His health. This is the part of the story that scares me, because the question sits in the back of my mind, “Will God allow this to happen to me?” The uncomfortable idea is that God will use my faith as a test between Himself and the enemy. How much pain is God going to bring into my life to grow me as His child?

We don’t like to think on these things- the pruning that brings growth. It is necessary, but I can’t bear to think what may be required to bring me closer to Christ. Job was devout. God was ultimately pleased with him in chapters 1 and 2. And yet Job suffered in such extreme ways that his name today is synonymous with suffering.

Photo by Becca Lavin on Unsplash
Photo by Becca Lavin on Unsplash

Yet, it is good for us as believers to periodically examine our motives for following God. Are we doing it because of the blessings it brings or because we truly love Him? If we lost everything, would we still praise Him?

Then comes the body of the book, where Job’s friends listen to his complaint and advise him. I read these portions of Scripture- words that God saw fit to be in His canon- and I often question where these guys went wrong in their analysis of Job’s situation. They seem to be saying good things. Right things. What was the issue?

We find that God was not happy with their broad brush strokes at His character. Their pat answers of “God judges sinners and blesses the righteous” speak of their superior understanding of God’s ways. The truth is no one is an expert on God. Not a single one of us can handle that kind of knowledge. These three friends were mistaken in believing that there is only one reason for bad things to happen to seemingly good people- they aren’t good people.

So we have Job bemoaning His existence and questioning why God would attack him so. On the other side we have Job’s three friends accusing him of things he never did and being the worst comforters in the history of the world. And in the middle comes Elihu- the over looked wise man.

Photo by Maxime Agnelli on Unsplash
Photo by Maxime Agnelli on Unsplash

Young Elihu first points out the foolishness of the old friends in their lack of understanding. Age does not always equal wisdom. Wisdom involves knowledge and understanding- seeing a situation for what it is and appropriately applying truth to it. Broad brush strokes and pat answers are not wisdom.

Elihu then points out that we cannot possibly know all of God’s ways or His purposes. The character of God proves that He always does what is right- and we may not always understand the big picture. Our finite minds must be subject to His perfect knowledge of every person and situation.

And then God comes and further elaborates on Elihu’s premise by a series of questions which leave Job repenting of his self righteousness and resting in God’s sovereignty. In the end, Job is restored above what he had before and was a better man for his season of suffering.

Photo by SwapnIl Dwivedi on Unsplash

In walking away from such a heavy book, a story of chaffing truth, I can only meditate on a superficial level, it seems. Maybe some of these thoughts will help you in wrestling with this book:

1. There is a cosmic battle going on that we know very little about, yet we are a part of.

2. Is my love for God conditional? Will I bless God as long as He blesses me, or am I willing to praise Him though He takes away everything I hold dear?

3. What am I depending on in my relationship with God? My goodness or His? My faithfulness or His? My righteousness or His?

4. When I counsel it is not good enough to try to explain away everything with my limited knowledge. Listen, empathize, encourage. Do your part to turn the heart of the hurting back to the loving arms of God.

5. Rest in God’s sovereignty. He knows what He is about. He can be trusted.

6. God refines us in times of trial. This is the perspective we need when the road is rough.

Answers don’t come easy in Job, but that is okay. In reading it, we come face to face with our motives for our relationship with the Almighty and can use this mirror of Scripture to draw closer to Him. Embrace the discomfort of Scripture and you can find great truth still.

Read it for yourself! While the entire book of Job is talked of, chapters 1, 2, 33-42 are brought up.

Daniel’s Testimony on Trial

I’m somewhat fascinated with the story of Daniel. This guy is oft forgotten in our Heroes of the Faith lists. I guess what I like about him is that everything was against him and he didn’t turn from God. I’m not sure, if in the same circumstances, I could’ve done the same.

First off, he was captured and taken to a country he was entirely unfamiliar with. He was torn away from his family and cast into a pagan culture that defiled everything his culture held sacred. Daniel and his friends were then expected to embrace this system, so violently against their own, under the watchful eye of the reigning king. Talk about a high pressure situation!

But Daniel knew something that had been ingrained in him from his earliest memories. God doesn’t leave us in the midst of hardship. Job, Joseph, and David all give testimony to God being with them at their lowest low and exalting them to big successes. (No, I’m not starting a new health and wealth program…)

Photo by Pawan Sharma on Unsplash

Despite the heartache and loss he surely felt, Daniel clung to God. God knew he could use Daniel in a big way in a world so ignorant of its true Creator. So he prospered and became a high-up government official. He had the King’s favor.

Daniel was doing everything right. Honoring the king. Honoring God. Staying true to who he really was. And sure as rain in springtime, enemies are made when we follow after righteousness.

So you know the story- because of a law created specifically against Daniel, he was thrown into a den of lions, albeit hesitantly, by his friend King Darius.

I’m sure a part of him was terrified. The certainty of being torn to pieces- literally- seems like something from a nightmare. And the mental anguish building up to being tossed into a pit of starving lions… I’m starting to sweat just imagining it.

I’m sure Daniel was also hopeful. Remember, this guy saw his friends saved from a fiery furnace. He knew of God’s deliverance. He experienced firsthand His blessing when he flourished on little as a child, and then throughout his life to that point.

Photo by Wade Lambert on Unsplash

God was with Daniel through the most terrifying moment of his life. We see it obviously in the fact that he survived. How would you be after sitting in a lion filled pit all night? Edgy? Insane? Sleep deprived?

King Darius races over and asks the question that is burned into my brain: “Did your God save you?”

That is the defining moment in the account of Daniel. He went through a horrendous trial. One that we can hardly fathom. And he was able to declare before the king that His God delivered him.

Daniel was able to come out of that trial not being jaded or angry at God. He proclaimed God’s faithfulness and glorified His name.

That testimony turned the heart of the king towards the true God.

Part of the test in a trial is whether we will curse God or bless His name. The words may not form on our lips, but can be spoken through our attitude and actions as well.

Trials come. This is as certain as death and taxes. In a life fixed on God, we can see his hand in everything and point the ability to overcome back to Himself. And the world is watching Christians. They have an expectation. They are waiting for failure to cope or our faith to flounder.

Photo by Wade Lambert on Unsplash

I don’t say this to put unhealthy or insincere pressure on you, or me. But it would be foolish to forget that we bear the name of our King wherever we go. We are his ambassadors, proclaiming his message throughout the world.

I’ve known Christians get bent out of shape over bad service in a restaurant. People in leadership who are rude to nurses in triage scenarios. Young men who forget who they really are when confronted with ungodly behavior from peers.

None of these things is like being left to die in lion’s den.

And don’t mistake me- in stressful scenarios we are not at our best. Understandably so. But when we are constantly mindful- not of ourselves, but our God- when these trials come, the Spirit can work through us.

Let’s not sit and wallow in weakness, but use that trial to propel our eyes to Christ. He can and does deliver us. It may not be deliverance from the pain of our circumstance, like Daniel, but He will surely give us the strength to endure.

**Read it for yourself! Daniel chapters 1, 3 and 6 were mentioned in this post.

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