I remember sitting at my first MOPS meeting for Mother’s with Preschoolers. After years of waiting to have a child, my husband and I had been blessed with a newborn through adoption. The irony is, all of the moms at the table had new babies. We needed support way before our children reached preschool age! Our of about 10 of us however, I found is disheartening to hear all but myself and another mom say, “Don’t you just hate being a parent some days?”
Gasp! And these were Christian women. “All I feel like is the maid and the cook” they shared. Looking back, now I realize that I was still in some of the “bliss” of motherhood.” Yet, ironically, the only two of us who were content at the moment were both working at home–in the middle of the night–doing ministry work. I was doing Rest Ministries stuff and the other woman worked as a freelancer for a local Christian magazine. In fact, we had met a year earlier when she had called to interview me about Rest Ministries.
Yes, I was EX-HAUST-ED… So tired, it took 3 syllables just to get that word out. Yes, I felt overwhelmed. I was enjoying motherhood, but also trying to balance it with my chronic illness and sleepless nights and lifting the car seat, and putting together the stroller.
What was the difference? Perhaps it was that my brain still got at least the chance to do something –even if it was at 2 AM. Or perhaps I didn’t ever get to those blues of “is-this-all-there-is-and-will-ever-be?” because I still had Rest Ministries to turn to, to still find myself. I was still me here at this web site, even when covered in baby spit up. I still had you. I had a purpose beyond folding up 27 onesies. Even though I loved those little onesies. . . I wanted more. Was that so bad?
I have not yet read this book (below), but am eager to do so, because I believe that yes, our children and family should be our number one ministry. But after that, we should still continue to reach outside of our home and look for the needs and how we can meet them. There is no greater gift we can give our child than taking them with us as we drop off a plant to a friend recovering from surgery; have them bake cookies for the new family on our street, or like my son, help me seal up envelopes and drop them in the mail box for people of Rest Ministries. We will soon be exhibiting at the Joni and Friends Disability Summit and my son is eager to run around the exhibit room and pass out buttons and pens like he has in the past and ask children in the wheelchairs to tell him about the batteries that operate their chairs and how long the lights will stay turned on on those special chairs.
Don’t for a moment think that “ministry” needs to have any 501 or c3 or initials behind it. Ministry is reaching out–even to just one other person–and sharing the love of the Lord with them. I saw my grandmother do it, inviting people to her porch for a slice of pie and a prayer and a squeeze of a hand. Now, my mother is doing it. Some days, she is the woman behind my exhibit table doing formal ministry, but most often she is visiting people in nursing homes, giving rides to doctors appointments, and mentoring younger girls– all between her own doctors appointments for diabetes. Don’t feel overwhelmed with “ministry”– just show up!
Lisa, Founder of Rest Ministries
A Different Kind of Mom: Making a Difference at Home and in the World for Christ
By: Helen Lee, author of The Missional Mom: Living with Purpose at Home & in the World (Moody Publishers, Jan. 2011). Reprinted with permission of Moody Publishers
Back in the warm summer days of July, New York magazine posted an article entitled, “All Joy and No Fun: Why Parents Hate Parenting,” an examination of the current emotional and mental state of today’s parents who were depicted as being harried, frustrated, and unfulfilled by the challenges of raising children. Not long afterwards, two Christian mommy-bloggers posted the article on The Mommy Revolution, resulting in scores of other Christian mothers chiming in with their own stories of frustration and weariness at the daily burdens of motherhood. “I just told my husband how unhappy I am,” one commenter wrote, “I’m empty, exhausted, and fried.”
Motherhood can absolutely be a draining role, one that by definition necessitates constant sacrifice, which is never an easy thing. And yet, I wonder if the reason that today’s Christian mothers have an unfulfilling parenting experience is because they have misunderstood the purpose of their lives, and how motherhood fits into that purpose to begin with.
When I first became a mother nearly a decade ago, as much as I loved my newborn baby boy, I also wrestled with a constant stream of internal questions: was motherhood supposed to be my highest or only calling? What was I supposed to do with other gifts and callings God had given me? Was I supposed to be wholeheartedly embracing motherhood as the cornerstone of my identity and the recipient of all my energies? Was asking these kinds of questions evidence that I was a bad Christian mother?
For the past year and a half, I’ve been pondering these questions. I’ve specifically wondered whether pursuing a missional lifestyle could be the key to helping mothers regain a sense of perspective and purpose in their lives. I spoke with about 40 different mothers whose lives reflect a missional perspective, who live with a strong sense of purpose and with the intentional desire to impact the world in whatever way God had calls them. These are women who clearly take their roles as mothers and wives seriously, but also keep those roles in the proper perspective, under God’s lordship and direction for their lives.
For example, take Tonya Herman. She is a mom of two kids who lives in Compton, California, someone who loves and ministers in her city despite its negative reputation. Tonya opened her home to two teenage boys from a local family so they can have a chance at academic progress and success.
Or Shayne Moore, a Wheaton College graduate and suburban mom of three who went to hear Bono speak one evening at her alma mater and was forever changed. A self-described ordinary “soccer mom,” Shayne would become a global advocate in the battle against HIV and AIDS through the ONE Campaign.
Or consider Arloa Sutter, a mom who raised two daughters in the city of Chicago, and responded to God’s call to reach the homeless and poverty-stricken men and women around her. She started by mobilizing her church to serve coffee to those in need, a ministry which became Breakthrough Urban Ministries and which now runs two shelters serving thousands of homeless people every year. If you meet women like this, you discover that while motherhood can indeed be exhausting, life as a mom can still be exciting and fulfilling as you pursue God’s calling and purpose in your life.
North Park University professor and popular blogger Scot McKnight says, “Women have done the bulk of the ministry in the West for a long, long time. Mothers are typically the most missional people in the church.”
The more I began to interact with missional moms, the more I discovered that motherhood is not a phase in one’s life that you have to just tolerate and survive. A missional mom is no less tired at the end of the day than other moms. But she goes to sleep knowing she has pursued God’s mission for her life and made an impact in the world. And that is what makes all the difference.
Helen Lee is an award-winning freelance writer and editor with nearly two decades of experience publishing in the Christian market. She is the co-editor of and contributor to Growing Healthy Asian-American Churches (IVP, 2006) and co-founder of the Best Christian Workplaces Institute, which runs the annual “Best Christian Places to Work” survey. Helen has written numerous articles for publications such as Christianity Today, Today’s Christian Woman, re:generation quarterly and Leadership Journal (LJ). In both 2008 and 2009, her articles for LJ earned Higher Goals awards in reporting from the Evangelical Press Association. She is married to classical pianist and Moody Bible Institute professor Brian Lee; together they have three young sons. Helen is also a homeschooling mom and seeks to provide her sons with a classical Christian education; she and her family reside in Chicagoland. This article is reprinted with permission of Helen. Visit her web site at http://www.edstetzer.com/2010/12/thursday-is-for-thinkers-helen.html