Motherhood

Guest Post: The Heart of an Anxious Mom in the Hand of a Sovereign God

This is a guest post from my wife, Melanie. She originally wrote this post for Biblical Woman, the blog site for the Women’s Programs at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. The post originally appeared here and was re-printed in Baptist Press here.

I was sitting on the conveyor belt in the baggage claim area of the Jackson International airport when the tornadoes came through Jackson, MS. The airport staff had directed us to take shelter there until the storms passed. I had already heard of the casualties in Arkansas, children who lost parents, parents who lost babies.

My own mother was on the road somewhere in the storm trying to get home. As I sat there in the darkness, the familiar emotions of fear and worry consumed me.  Immediately, though, I also felt God’s presence and reassurance that, “I am with you and will never leave you. I love you and the people you love and I have a perfect plan for each of your lives.”

There is something you must understand, though. This is not the first time the emotions of anxiety and worry have swept over me almost causing me to lose my breath. As a matter of fact, it wasn’t even the thousandth time. God’s sweet voice of reassurance is a tune I have come to know and claim as truth in my life. I struggled with fear and worry some as a child, much like other kids my age. I was scared of the house catching fire or snakes being in my bed.

However, it was not until I became a mother myself that I sat down at the banquet of anxiety.

Once I saw the positive pregnancy test, I instantly felt responsible for a life other than my own. After our first daughter was born, fear would overwhelm me as I was giving her a bath or rocking her in my arms. Some days I would only nibble at the banquet, knowing that most of my fears were irrational. However, other days I allowed myself to fully take in the diet of worry. On those days, my joy was lost. My thoughts of what “could” happen tumbled out of control if I was not careful. The Lord blessed us with more children, and with each one, the feeling of fear and anxiety continued like old, worn jeans that you know you should throw out, but keep around for comfort sake.

“What if I wasn’t paying attention and something happened to them?”

“What if I didn’t feed them the right things?”

“What if I didn’t do the right things to protect them?”

“What if we didn’t have the right toys/equipment/safety devices for them?”

At some point in time, all of these questions haunted me. However, I began to realize that all of my concerns had one common focus. Me.

The more I focused on myself and my abilities, the more I saw my shortcomings and faults. However, when I took my eyes off of myself and placed them on an almighty, powerful God, I began to see how the God who tends to the lilies can be trusted with all of my concerns.  As my children grew, the Lord began to teach me magnificent truths that took me away from the banquet of anxiety and led me to the true Bread of Life where I can feast on His goodness.

God used 2 Timothy 1:7 many times to speak truth into my heart: “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” It is not God’s plan for us to consider ourselves crazy because we have irrational thoughts of worry. He has given us a sound mind. That means I can trust him as He leads me to make the right decisions throughout the day. If I am in a close walk with Him, He will guide my path and give me a sound mind.

In my life, the antidote to fear and worry has always been a deeper understanding and appreciation of the sovereignty of God.

For example, I cannot keep my children safe 100% of the time, but I know God loves them even more than I do and whatever He chooses to allow in their lives is for the purpose of His glory. In the same manner, I trust God for clarity of mind so that I can make the best decisions for my family that I can make. I forget things. I accidentally overlook things, but by the grace of God, His sovereignty more than makes up for my faults.

I praise God that he has taught me to recognize fear, worry, and anxiety in my life, not as mental issues, but as trust issues. The more I trust in the precious sovereignty of God, the more I am at peace with whatever He brings my way.

Guest Post: Maybe You’re {Not} Supposed to Do It All

This is a guest post from my wife, Melanie. She originally wrote this post for Biblical Woman, the blog site for the Women’s Programs at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. The post originally appeared here.

“Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it.”
~Colossians 4:9

In our culture, moms are called on to do more than they have ever had to do before. While we also have more help with smartphones and fast food and efficient appliances, most moms feel the pressure of being spread too thin. The commitment to raise children, the commitment to our jobs (professional, volunteer, home-based, etc.) the commitment to our marriages, and the commitment to our homes can leave even the most organized woman drowning in over commitment.

At the very end of Colossians, almost as an aside, Paul adds a note to a fellow brother in Christ, Archippus. Paul addresses him by name and says to “take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it.” This Archippus is thought to be Philemon’s son that is mentioned in Philemon 2, so it’s likely that he routinely hosted the church in his home and he was more than likely very involved in the church body overall. We are only left to speculate what Paul meant with this challenge to Archippus, but I do believe there are specific things that we, as moms, can glean from a simple statement by Paul.

  1. Take heed or pay attention– I know, as a mom, I can allow myself to be greatly distracted by everything. Without a plan, I can spend my day chasing rabbits or following the demand of the urgent. However, in our schedules, Paul reminds us to pay attention. We have to discipline ourselves to focus on what we are called to do.
  2. To your ministry– What are you called by God to do? We are most effective when we have a clear purpose and a clear goal. Take the time to pray about what God would have you to do. Discuss it with your husband. Without clear purpose, we leave ourselves open to the waves of whatever comes our way.
  3. Which you have received in the Lord- Where did you receive the call to do all the things you are trying to do? Ladies, this one is hard to accept, but it is imperative that we listen to what Paul is trying to say here. We can receive our “duties” from many different places, mainly other people, our kids, or our own selfish aspirations, just to name a few. But if we attempt to put on our plate every job that comes our way from any source, then we will be too tired and too distracted to actually hear what God is calling us to do. Make a list of all the responsibilities you have. Then, beside each responsibility write who gave you that job. If you ultimately did not receive it from the Lord, then, with much prayer and trust, begin working on releasing that job. Fellow mommas, the Lord has called us to great ministries and responsibilities. Only those that we receive from Him have eternal consequences. If God did not call you to a job, the stretch of your influence will be stunted in that position. Release it and take heed to those we have received from Him.
  4. That you may fulfill it – Doesn’t it feel good to complete something? For a mom, it’s a special treat. The only reason I like laundry is because there is a beginning (dirty clothes) and an end (clean clothes). It is a great feeling to see a job to its completion. God desires us to accomplish something, not to work aimlessly chasing everything that comes our way. If we will pay attention to only the ministry that we receive from God, then the feeling of accomplishment is within our grasp. Are you always starting and never completing anything? Maybe you are trying to do more than what the Lord has planned for you right now.

One of the biggest lies our culture tells us is that we can do it all and have it all right now. I know sometimes I listen to this lie and before I even realize it, I am working myself into a frenzy. As moms, the cost is too precious to waste our energy on tasks that are not from the Lord. I encourage you to join me in examining my own life and discipline myself to only heed the ministries that the Lord has given me that I might fulfill them to His glory.

Guest Post: An Open Letter to the President Regarding My Choice to Stay at Home

(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

This is a guest post from my wife, Melanie, written in response to President Obama’s speech on October 31, 2014, at Rhode Island College in Providence, RI.

Dear Mr. President:

In your recent speech to a gathering in Rhode Island, you discussed the benefits of more funding for public pre-schools. You said, “Sometimes, someone, usually mom, leaves the workplace to stay home with the kids, which then leaves her earning a lower wage for the rest of her life as a result. And that’s not a choice we want Americans to make.” I have been a mom for almost 10 years, but before that I earned my bachelor’s degree in psychology and my master’s degree in Biblical counseling. As a professional, I could do many jobs with those degrees including, but not limited to, counseling in a faith-based setting or teaching counseling through a university. According to various sources, my income would range from $40,000-$50,000 per year. Therefore, over my 10 years of parenting I potentially could have made approximately $500,000. Now, we both know that a good portion of that salary would have gone to taxes and the extra expenses of working, but I do not deny that I would probably have more money in the bank had I chosen that route.

However, I have had the privilege and honor of being a full time mom for almost a decade. I have 4 children that I know in-depth. I am an expert on what makes them laugh, cry, what fears they have, and what dreams they dream. Just since my youngest was born, I have fed them roughly 3000 meals and taught them diligently to be polite during those meals. During the pre-school years, I have taught them to use the restroom and how to read. They have inspired me to slow down and be silly and read just one more chapter to that story. You might think that any pre-school teacher could do this, but I beg to differ, for there is something that happens between the four walls of a home that cannot happen in a group classroom. I look them in the eyes and show them unconditional love and offer them passionate training for life. I do not change. I do not leave at night. I do not go somewhere on the weekends. They are with me during holidays and the summertime. What they get is a life laid down for THEM, and what I pray they see is that they are worth the sacrifice. Yes, I have sacrificed a lot of money by not working in a job for many years, but what I hope to convey is that a life of sacrifice for my children pays off dividends for the future. A life is not made by the money you make, but by the legacy you leave. My legacy will be how my children love and fight for what is right and how they serve others for generations upon generations.

Do not misunderstand me, Mr. President. I am not taking the bait to enter into another fight between stay-at-home moms and moms who work outside the home. My own mother worked for the entirety of my growing-up years, many of those years as a single parent. I admire any mom who lovingly provides for her children and desires to raise them as mature, loving, and selfless adults. Much of popular culture and politics wants moms to be at war with each other so that we miss the one thing we should be fighting to protect—our children. Therefore, no, I am not writing this letter to show my superiority over other moms who have made different choices. I am writing to explain to you that moms who leave the workplace to raise their children are not women to be pitied. We are not women who need a government solution so that we can be freed from our bondage to our home. On the contrary, we are women who made a choice to lay down our plans and our pocketbooks and take up the monumental task of nurturing and growing the next generation.

For God’s glory,

Melanie Lenow

__________________________

Remarks by the President on Women and the Economy–Providence, RI,” Office of the Press Secretary, The White House, October 31, 2014.

Guest Post: If My Work All Day Goes Unnoticed, Did It Really Matter?

This is a guest post from my wife, Melanie. She originally wrote this post for Biblical Woman, the blog site for the Women’s Programs at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. The post originally appeared here.

We all know the age-old question, “If a tree falls in the middle of the forest, does it make any noise?” What is really being asked is this, “If something happens and a person does not see it, did it really happen?” Many days, this is a question that is unconsciously dancing in the back of my mind. As a wife and mom, many things I do are not observed by other people.

If no one sees my work, did I really do anything all day? And does it matter if I metaphorically “fall down” if no one witnesses it? The answer is a resounding YES in God’s eyes!

Even if no one is taking notice, we still have an audience of one.

Our culture presents a great temptation to constantly perform for others. The increased use of social media in the last few years has only heightened it. Everyone wants to stand out, be noticed, speak up, and have a voice. If we fade into the crowd, get overlooked, are ignored, or are silenced, we become discouraged and begin to believe that whatever we are doing must not matter. However, in God’s economy, the exact opposite is true.

All throughout Scripture, God shows favor on the unnoticed one. He uses the meek or common to make an extraordinary impact.

One of the greatest examples is the contrast set up between King Saul and King David. When Saul is first described, it is in comparison to other men. “There was not a more handsome person than he among the children of Israel. From his shoulders upward, he was taller than any of the people”  (1 Sam 9:2). Saul was a man that others noticed. However, in regard to his heart before God, Samuel describes it as rebellious and stubborn and declares, “because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He also has rejected you from being king” (1 Sam 15:23).

Saul received the praise of men, but was rejected by God.

In contrast, when God chooses David to be king, he is lowly in comparison to his brothers. The fact that God had to instruct Samuel to “not look at his appearance or at his physical stature” (1 Sam 16:7) reveals that David might not have been too impressive in those categories. On the stage among peers, David might have been overlooked.

However, God is an audience of one, and he notices the heart and takes heed of actions and attitudes that go completely unnoticed by others. 

David wrote many of the Psalms from the inside of a cave as he ran and hid from Saul. No one was there to hear his words. It was only him crying out to God. Alone. Now, let’s use the proverbial question at the beginning of this article, “If David cried out in a cave alone in the wilderness, did anyone hear him?” According to scripture, the answer is YES God heard him. God heard him and thought that David’s raw emotions and words were so powerful that He saw it fit to place them in Scripture as a testimony for all eternity of how we too can cry out to God in the deepest and darkest places.

In college, I had the privilege of studying under Dr. Les Hughes who is now the pastor of Highview Baptist Church in Louisville, KY. He wrote a book called, The Sound of God’s Applause that has been very powerful in my life and in the life of my husband.  In one of his chapters, he asks several questions that encourage the reader to reflect on the question “Am I seeking the approval of people?” As I have read through those questions many times, I am constantly convicted about how much stock I put in other’s opinions of me.

I have found that, as my desire to please others increases, my concern over pleasing God decreases. As I put more and more stock in what others know of me, I put less and less importance on how God deeply knows me.

Even if no one else sees the work or deeds that I do, God sees.

Even deeper, He sees the attitude of my heart. I want to learn to truly serve others, expecting nothing in return.  I desire to be content in doing good deeds, not for the applause of men, but for the pleasure of my Father.  It does not matter if no one else takes notice; it is God’s applause that I crave.