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July 21, 2022 6:00 am
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I find myself constantly falling asleep. The moment I said on the pray and I guess I'm just making up for the lack of sleep that my children are getting, you know that sometimes the best I can do is pull out the Bible verse of the day on some random website answer, then I shared that with my kids because I know their schedules are busy to think when I was single I got used to spending huge chunks of time with God and after we had kids, and especially with activities. Sometimes that time gets crowded out have to be creative. So was reading the story of Mary and Martha because I so relate to that and is wanting to teach my girls about it. But in the middle of that I might come out to switch of the load of laundry so I put aside the story to go do that maybe I didn't eat maybe you can relate to those struggles.
I think we all want to have a more active and vibrant connection with God but life often seems to get in the way on this edition of Focus on the Family we have some creative ideas on how you can improve that kind of situation your hostess focus president and author Jim Daly and I'm John Fuller at John today we want to offer encouragement and hope to busy parents. It's going to lean toward moms but I think that's can learn a lot from what were going to talk about today.
Here's a quote from our guests. She said I run a marathon walk for a month on a broken ankle and moan my way through natural childbirth twice that's incredible in comparison to the daily grind parenting all those things were like take so that's funny if that's how you feel you need to lean into today's program and I think were going to have some great ideas for you to reconnect to God even in a busy period of your life yeah and the Rev. Courtney Ellis is with us in the studio. She's an author, speaker, associate pastor with her husband Darrell at Presbyterian Church of the master in Mission Viejo, California. She and Darrell have three young children, ages nine, six and three, and Courtney has a book that will be the basis of our conversation today, almost holy mama life-giving spiritual practices for weary parents and will encourage you to get your copy, click the link in the episode notes or give us a call Courtney, welcome to Focus on the Family, thank you so much for having me.
First of all, my wife, Jean, love the title of your book to get that women connect with that title. Almost holy mama. She was like that is perfect because we never quite arrive at least in your mind right now. At the time of atonement.
It's taken care of yes and sanctification is a process right there you go. That quote I read a minute ago about being a working mom and going through all the things that you've gone through, but being that mom is sounds like it's taken the most whole. I'm sure for you. It's now this is just part of motherhood. But those days, right those days that the load just feels so overwhelming describe it it's it's really like nothing else.
I remember when our young get our oldest son was a few weeks old thinking if I could just have a few days of a break, I can today really is never going to bed night I was in nursing mom and my son needed me, and I could take 10 minutes. But what I really needed was two days to sleep you and that wasn't going to happen suggest that the everydayness of the daily grind is like nothing else. I think those early years. Not to remember for broaching the earlier 72 boys two years apart.
It was foreign to me and I was a bit of chaos going on three and one was chaos taken care of everything right you keep out of the electrical box out from under the sink. You got all that stuff you did you guys have all the locks and stuff on your cupboard doors and allow absolute lockdown and and now our kids are old enough that we don't need many of those things that we can't get the locks off the toilet. I forgot that hard. It just is relentless and you love these little people so much. But what what people forget about young children is they they change from activity to activity every minute or every two minutes or every three minutes when they're in that toddler phase and it just wears you down. It's exhausting.
Alright, so you started with the idea of contemplation practicing the awareness of God's presence.
That all sounds good but but doing that while you were driving around in the truck shoveling your kids to and fro. You put a note on your dashboard help you with that notes are the note said three Jesus others outside and it was a reminder first to take a couple deep breaths because I was often moving at the speed of light and then to think about Jesus and think about the people who are in my car the people we passed on the street to look outside and contemplation is so beautiful because we don't actually have to do anything except remember that Jesus is with us and changes everything, because when retired when were exhausted when were frazzled. Often we forget that God is present. Example I'm I'm just wanting you to connect with that mom is frazzled that you seriously think about Jesus. Are you kidding me.
I just changed a poopy diaper. That's the whole premise of the book is I was so exhausted and so desperate for God and so I read books on spiritual practices that say take an hour and quiet prayer and I was just thinking, are you kidding me, my children will burn the house to the ground. What I need is Jesus I need God's help, but I can't fit more into my day.
So how can I connect spiritual practices to things I'm already doing so. I'm not asking moms to do anything. I'm asking moms to think about what they're already doing and how God wants to help them, which is great is focusing on something more significant than cleaning up after your child right right so day one starts in this new experiment that went flawlessly that I nail perfect you nailed it. They tell us about it, then your book expert in all of these things, know the first day I had a little note taped to the dashboard and make a beautiful hand written whatever and and I ran out of time so I scribbled it with a sharpie in the back of an envelope and taped it to the dashboard and by the time I had turned out of our street. I was already distracted and I saw someone walking by with a cute tank top and I thought maybe I would like that team top and I wonder where you can buy such a tank top and 20 yeah, I can focus on Jesus for 20 seconds. My will was weak, my attention was weak, and here's the thing about spiritual practices.
They're not about us. Pleasing God, are finally being good enough. It's about returning again and again to the reminders that God loves us didn't condemn your shaming. I was like I'm still here whenever you're ready whenever you think about the top.
I'm here Courtney. One thing that I've noticed when I interviewed women who tend to lease to me. They tend to carry a lot of guilt for coming up short, women are far more inward looking about the shortcomings. I think than men are. Maybe we have extra dose that you go that just allows us to not look at our flaws is closely women tend to just feel really laden with guilt.
If they don't get it done on time. If they don't get it done perfectly if they don't fill in the blank, whatever that might be the longer the dishes. Whatever working outside the home in my contributing enough to speak to that that side of it about that burden of guilt and how to get that yoke off your back.
That is such a beautiful piece drawing near to God. Any spiritual practices I expected to hear condemnation.
I expected to hear you should've tried harder.
You should have done better, but what I heard most often was, I love you and I'm here, and that would bring me to tears that bring me to tears now because I do think moms especially and dads to, but we have a sense of just driving and striving and striding parenting is so hard you can fail a thousand times a day even with the best intentions you know when your child begs you for macaroni and cheese I want macaroni and cheese on macaroni and cheese and you could get you set it in front of them and they say I hate this macaroni and cheese and you have and I love you. And then I got this response.
It's normal to get frustrated and it's normal to feel like why did I even try. But the beautiful thing is when we return to God.
God reminds us that we are seen that we are loved and that we are not alone in so many pieces of parenting are very isolating. I'm alone with my kids and no one sees us except Jesus. In this one-year-old won't remember if I was patient or not, but God is present to me and with me and within me.
Yeah, I mean it's good to say it's good thing you're doing okay.
Don't put too much pressure on good enough is one of the things we constantly said I don't know if you have said this to retrieve the job. Note this is probably pretty common.
I just wish we could have the do over with our boys being now 19 to 21 know if we could just wind the clock back to two and four do so many things differently. But how do you manage that sense of guilt that I wish I could have parented better. You only go through it. You know the one time with whatever number children you might have won the whatever, but how about the feeling of well I think that's a feeling that so common to all parents and the hard thing is your kids often remember the one time you lost your temper instead of the hundred times you dance are our oldest son was two years old I was buckling into his car seat and had shorts on and when I pinched the buckle.
I got his leg and mother would do that for the next year. Every time I buckled them into his car seat.
You yell at the top of his lungs. Mommy don't hurt me like you did last time, it like that's what he remembered not to hundred times 300, 400 times I buckled and then perfectly safely and so I think that's why we have to remember there is grace were not going to be perfect and we are the parents that our children need.
God has given us our particular children for a reason he's given us a great them for a reason and were both making each other holier when we walk with the Lord, and sometimes not through mistakes and sin that we need to apologize for. And sometimes that's just you know if I knew then what I know now I would put you in soccer and not in ballet can account for that we can't see the future. All we can do is be faithful with what we know and what we have today. Let me ask you, you mentioned your stories about bedtime and how they typically end up being the greatest fight of the day was bedtime I just describe what bedtime work for you. That picture for us bedtime and bedtime so hard bedtime by bedtime. The lights on so you're tired they know you're tired, maybe even super patient all day, but that hour before that is so tricky, and suddenly your child is a bundle of energy is a slaw bathroom to brush their teeth and so I connected the spiritual discipline of service with bedtime and not service as an enabling my kids doing everything for them. Our oldest would love to do standard him.
He brushed his teeth, and I would like to know you can do this. I'm not remembering the ways that God serves us and so the symbol of service in the Bible is often the towel Jesus washing his disciples feet and we often ended our day with the bathtime what it mean to focus in on how God served me as I serve my children and I had to put my phone away for the entire hour which is harder than it should have been, but very effective and together. My husband and my kids and I learned how to serve each other and how to be a little bit more patient and if you read that chapter. Sometimes it went super well it absolutely did not, but it was the spirit of serving my kids trying to serve my kids with the love of Jesus rather than just the drudgery of the end of the day.
So here's a real practical one. How did you manage mommy I want more water. We just put that right in the bed.yeah yeah right now I'm that's one of the only tips I have were talking about being a tired parent seeking after God in Courtney Ellis is our guest today on Focus on the Family.
She's got this terrific book. Almost holy mama life-giving spiritual practices for weary parents and will encourage you to get your copy. We've got the link in the episode notes Courtney let's go over a few of those experiment outcomes thing a science guy like that.
But what were some of those failures and successes in that idea of serving your children. So when I wrote that chapter of the book I intended this book to be a 12 month experiment in spiritual practices and ended up taking over two years for reasons that I talk about in the book they just things like commonly I got pregnant with our third and it was a rough pregnancy, but the spiritual discipline of service is wonderful because it parenting is all about serving and you're making the food for your kids and your changing the diapers for your kids and your buckling them hopefully safely into their car seats and all of these things and what I started to learn ways. When I became aware that Jesus was in the boat with me. I just I felt so much less alone in this evening routine often. My husband had meetings at church. I was still on maternity leave and so it was this long hour of loneliness until I started realizing Jesus was in the boat right this is the story in the Gospels and the disciples in the storm in their terrified and suddenly they realize, oh my goodness Jesus is in the boat and you realize you're not alone. It really does transform the experience and there were nights where I would have to apologize to my oldest son in the morning because I was, not as patient as I wanted to be. There were nights where our youngest went to bed beautifully and then woke up in 20 minutes, thinking it was morning and then we put them down again and then we put them down again right.
It was relentless and Jesus was in the boat. I can relate to the youngest, was my attitude was aboard, I got up way too early like 45 in the morning to go outside and play Batman white. Why sleep. Life was so much fun you can do harm. Middle we call in the piece of toast because he would pop up at 445 and like to hear that there is not enough coffee in the world with my mom. Just let me go. Sure friends are going seriously so hard to be mad at him someday is a trip man let's describe how you learn that you can't be Jesus to your kids. I think this is another one of those control features for moms, particularly both moms and dads with mom stunned about little higher dose of I can take care of their surrounding I can manager up with them in the right place to put them in the right class with the right teacher. I know every teacher and all those things and you start to like over guide. Everything you're kind of being God in their life yeah and we we talk about this in parenting ministries.
You're the first Jesus. Your children will see and that's way too much pressure. Jesus is Jesus you're the mom you're the dad and that's all you need to be and that's wonderful grace to remember that these children are entrusted to our care but were stewards of them. Ultimately, they belong to the Lord. I have a lot of fear with our firstborn, that when he was a baby when he was an infant. He would be one of those since babies who died and didn't wake up and so I would check on him every hour and was like you need to leap.
I said well I can't sleep until he promised me be okay Courtney, I can't promise you right. I can't promise you, but what I can promise you is that Jesus is in that room and that way you're talking from a position of fear. That's a good thing to attack you know that we can't control outcomes. We can't control what's going to happen. I'm sure some people are listening that have lost a child. My brother lost his son.
So I mean it happens.
These are serious moments you know but this is life.
And if you're fearful about every potential environment. Your child's going to be in you not to be living in peace and me being afraid of that wouldn't stop it from happening. It would just drain me of strength and courage.
How do you move from the rail of fear to a better place of butter rail of trust. It's going back to that Jesus is in the boat right and whether I feel fear or not, whether I feel courage or not that reminder that we are not alone and that God goes with that's behind us and before us and on every side that we are hemmed in behind in performing the Psalms are great because the psalmist will pour out the sphere and then there's often this turn of but I will trust in your unfailing love God you are with me and so I think we are. We are pretty incapable of walking away from fear on our own. We can try we can drum up kind of false bravado, but the reminder of the presence of God for me was a big part of walking away from fear and walking away from control because our kids are still fairly young, we can fix most things with a Popsicle or a Band-Aid that gets harder as the kids get older, but again, we are stewards, we slowly release them more and more fully into so true, and if Jean were here, she would say she feels like she learned that lesson a little later than she would've liked to. The boys were late teens when she realized she really doesn't control a figure almost once a month that you can't control me. I mean you want me to do the right things and I want to do the right things but it's not can be because you told me to ask because I'm in a choose to do the right thing.
It wasn't from a kid yeah but you know right then I thought okays got it. He knows if he's going to choose something of darkness versus the things of the Lord right he's got that capacity already, but it is his choice in parents just take a little longer realizing that that's a good lesson to learn, absolutely. And I think one of the ways parents of younger children can do that is by letting our kids have some reasonably safe natural consequences. Shall we go to the playground all the time.
I live in Southern California and where were very spoiled we can get 12 months of the year and I try to let my kids have some physical adventures but there's always a parent or two at the park. Who's that helicopter you know like you are you okay are you okay but my kids will say mommy help me down and I'll say mommy is here, but I think you can do and let them stretch themselves and let them try those things in a way that is safe in the way that they learn to have some courage and our rule is if you can't climb up it on your own.
You can't go up because all his money put me up there as I know you know and then they'll start to grow in the learn and sometimes they get three steps up and realize alike made a terrible mistake right and then they have the option, what am I going to do next. So a little bit of natural consequence to let our kids ask Laura to let our kids try things challenging and not bubblewrap them because I think if you're not able to do that with younger kids. It's harder when they're older and I think that chance of rebellion tends to be higher because they've never been able to have any you're actually developing the skills yeah that's the key person to realize that you want them to be responsible for how high the climb thousands present. Let me let me take us back to dinner because I think it's so important we do a lot of review of the research comes on family etc. I think were. Hopefully one of the best informed organizations on the data on family, marriage, parenting one of the key things is having a meal together and again I give Jean such great credit, she was good. I may not. Certainly when I wasn't traveling when I'm at home hundred percent. We had dinner pretty much at 6 o'clock every very predictable but the technology where he would sit at the table. I'm proud to say that I think I got Trenton troika blow some milk out of their nose. From time to time with laughter did become my goal, but it's just having fun. It's the communion as a family you you were big on that as well and adding that spiritual discipline and talking to spiritual things. Explain what you did, so we tied the spiritual practice of the examine to our family dinners and that is to put in the simplest terms, just thinking about where you noticed God in your day. I have your day in the low of your day and where you noticed God and it's from the Jesuit tradition and Jesuits were people on the go who needed time to reflect. At the end of their day where they noticed God at work and so we would do this and you could do this with tiny tiny kids. We started it when Lincoln was three years old and we would say it was best part of your day and the worst part of your day and where did you see God.
I think there are a lot of families who love to take this mealtime together. But then there some that can't we have a lot of families in our church to the work in law enforcement or things where the schedules just don't write and so if you can choose another time. You could do breakfast you could do bad time or working to see each other again on Thursday. Let's do it on Thursday, so no guilt but is a wonderful exercise to get to know your children was the best part of the usually wasn't what I thought it would be what was the hardest part and then to begin to cultivate the awareness of where was God and also helped my husband and I get to know each other because so much of our days are unseen by the other person and to hear what the best part was with the worst part was, and how they noticed God at work. It's really simple and it's really fun you little guy.
Lincoln try to game the system would be do we learn very quickly. We had to let him find his own way into it because by day three, day one went great. So I'm a great parent. I'm nailing this that's always the first clue that things are about to go south. Three. He would say the high of his day was going to the park.
The low of his day was. He didn't get to go to Legoland right but maybe you get to go to Legoland tomorrow and this answers prayer is begging for theme park tickets in the middle of this prayer and the controlling part of me wanted to let you know that's not what we do, but I had to just let him find his own way and eventually eventually he did such a great great way to know your child's heart. That's the key that's what you're pointing out how did you solve the theme park ticket problem we and he kept saying it like that was a thing we did all the time. It was a preschooler, I don't know what we did was Darrell has been down. I just model that we would do a highly video low where we would sign and it took a few weeks but eventually right below was a friend getting hurt on the playground and the high was having dinner together and and sometimes also the high was when he went swimming and he got to see all the sharks which didn't happen. There are no sharks rights of the three-year-old imagination, but I think I think Jesus smiled at all of it and I think God was glorified so to let him find his own way was was a good learning opportunity for both Darrell and I Courtney sometimes and this will be the last question was come back next time.
The discussions were to talk about but I think sometimes we over complicate things. Treasure saying those things.
The simplicity of what you're saying is so critically important that we want our three-year-old theologian, rather than just those little lessons that accumulate over time and create in their child a God centered heart and that's really the goal.
It should be the goal with what were doing, not to words dramatic every day, but more drip irrigation and then you know by the time the child's 18 if you done that well predictability would suggest that your child will have a heart for the things of God. That's the deepest hope right is that faithful repetition and that so much of the Christian life that Eugene Peterson's it's a long obedience in the same direction right so you may not have some big thunderous come to Jesus moment at the dinner table, but they will see you being faithful, day in and day out when it's easy and when it's hard. And when it goes badly.
They see you apologize and right. It's like pouring water into a basket some days like this didn't hold anything but the basket is wet and that's something and it is those little things and if you think about it in the grand scheme of parenting.
So much of parenting is repeating the same thing over, sit down at the dinner table sit down and sent 80,000. That's true of behavioral issues or manners, or things like that. How much more true is that spiritual thing. We think we've said it once and it's gotten into their heart and their soul hasn't is not true for me either. I needed a thousand times you just stay consistent. Lo and behold things happen in a positive direction. You know, and I'm thinking of the parent that might have the prodigal child or teenager just stay true to those conversions. Be loving and kind apologize. Were you made to the Lord's work in the child's heart. That's the one thing he's given everyone free choice right even to accept them or to deny him and that's an interesting model for us as parents. So this is been great and I'm looking forward to continuing the discussion and thank you for taking the time to write this great book with the wonderful title almost holy mama life-giving spiritual practices for weary parents let me go to the listener and the viewer. If you want a copy of this great resource to get in touch with us if you can give us a gift of any amounts what to do ministry together will send it as our way of saying thank you.
It's kind of a fun way to other people and get a great resource you can do that monthly or you can do that is one time gift in Wilson copy of Courtney's book.
Either way and it's our way of saying thank you for partnering with us, you can run like we should look for parenting assessment takes just a few minutes it will help you see were you doing well and give you some tips. She can work on here for you and number is 800 K 800-232-6459 or click the link in the episode on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team. Thanks for joining us today for focus on only join us again next time is once again with Courtney, you and your family thrive. I was shocked when she gave me the divorce papers. I was so done I had reached my breaking point.
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