Thursday, November 3, 2011

Mothering is so rewarding but it wasn't always easy for me

This is an exerpt from my 11/3/11 MOMentum talk at Cedar Creek Church -- West Toledo campus.

So, I am here today to encourage you in your role as the maker of the home.  Being a mother is one of the highest privileges that God can give a woman.  The journey of motherhood is daunting, overwhelming and exhausting BUT also exhilarating, exciting and oh so rewarding if we have Jesus’ servant attitude in our heart.  And, if we are wise and eternally-minded, we need to seek God’s love, grace and wisdom to guide us in raising these children who have been hand-picked by God and given specifically to us.  One of my favorite reminders to other mothers is that our children are our primary mission field.  We have such a privilege to be able to introduce them to Jesus and to teach them everyday how to love God and to love others – through our words and our actions.  Have you ever thought of yourself as a missionary?  Well, you can be – right in your own home.

So, you all are starting a series called “The Maker of the Home” in which you will focus on ways to make your home more peaceful, more engaging, simpler and more memorable. 

I’ll share with you what works for me and my family.  Each suggestion may or may not work well for you and your family but maybe the suggestions will help you think of something that will work for you.

But first let me share with you that becoming a mother was a bit difficult for me.  It was quite a transition.  I was thirty years old when we had our first child.  And for quite a few years before that I wasn’t sure that I wanted to be a mom – I had some anxiety about having children – that I would be a good mom.  I had a University job that paid well and I really liked it.  Deep down though I knew that if we were to have children that the best thing for them would be that I would be a stay-at-home mom.   The first few months after Jayson was born were very trying.  I was on maternity leave but I couldn’t wait to go back to work.  Being home all day with a baby was not enjoyable or rewarding for me – I was lonely and depressed that my baby cried all the time.  At my office, I was important and there was no crying.  But after a few months of going back to work I sensed that God was calling me to quit my job and be at home full-time.  I prayed “God if You really want me to be a stay-at-home mom then You are going to have to help me hate my job.”  Sure enough I did start to hate my job and I longed to be at home with Jayson.  So, I did quit my job but it still wasn’t easy to embrace the role of stay-at-home mom.  In fact, it took me quite a few years before I could say that I truly loved that I was a stay-at-home mom.  So, I tell you this because I don’t want you to think I’m some saint or a perfect mom or that it came easily for me.

A Memorable Home (an exerpt from my 11/3/11 MOMentum talk)

The next topic is a memorable home which pairs easily with an engaged home.  My recommendation is to take a day each week for rest and play for family and friends.  My husband and I decided about a year ago to start celebrating the Sabbath on Saturdays.  For us, the Sabbath is not about a list of do’s and don’ts or religious ceremony and rules.  We just felt like celebrating the Sabbath was a great tradition to start doing for a lot of reasons.  First, it was God’s idea so it deserved some consideration.  Second, Jesus called Himself the Lord of the Sabbath.  So, we decided to start celebrating the Sabbath as a way to really focus on our family and on Jesus.  I love the Sabbath.  We don’t do any chores or shopping – we save those for Sunday – our work at home day.  The Sabbath is truly a day of celebration for us.  We really focus on spending quality time with each other – having fun with each other, going to the park, visiting with friends and family, and we almost always go to church on Saturday evening to round out our Sabbath day.

So, I encourage you to see if you can take a day or even an evening each week to really focus on bonding with each other – making memories that will keep your children’s hearts full of your love.

A Simple Home (an exerpt from my 11/3/11 MOMentum talk)

The first round of suggestions is focused on helping you to simplify your life and your home.  Is there an area of your home that gives you heartburn when you look at it because it is cluttered and unorganized?  Are you feeling overwhelmed with too much on your schedule?

Let’s tackle our physical space first.  I admit that I have always had a hard time controlling paper clutter.  And while I would not consider myself a pack rat, I used to have a hard time getting rid of things I no longer needed – things like books, clothing, kitchen gadgets, etc.  I’d think – “oh, I might NEED that one day.  Or I might find a use for that some day.”  I’m much better now because of a book that really helped me in this area of de-cluttering and organizing.  The book title is Lighten Up by Michelle Passoff.  The Toledo library system has it.  The premise is that you should get rid of those things that are not helping you to achieve your current  goals.  She encourages the readers to analyze each room – are the things in this room the best place for them?  Are the things in your living space helping you to achieve your goals?  Are you using those things enough to warrant “premium space” in your living area or could those things be packed away and put out of sight until you need them?  Or better yet given or thrown away?

Her argument is along the lines of a place for everything and everything has its place but it goes even beyond that.  She wants you to really think about the “things” that are occupying your space.  She contends that once you have gotten rid of the things that are not helping you to achieve your goals that you will feel better and you will be more likely to work on the things that you want to work instead of being stuck and shuffling around irrelevant clutter.  For instance, I love reading.  If I had more money to spend I would most likely buy more books.  I have a lot of books.  When I was de-cluttering our living room, I had to make some decisions about the books on the living room book shelf.  I had to ask myself how often I was reading each particular book or magazine.  I was able to make those decisions and pack up the books that I knew I didn’t reach for very often.  Those boxes are clearly labeled and in the attic for whenever I do need to reference them.

I know that this is true for me – when my house is clean I just FEEL so good.  When it is messy and cluttered, it brings my mood down.   And if I need space to work on a project and I cannot find a clean spot to work on it, I get grumpy.  It is easier to be motivated to clean when you can focus on how good you feel when you have a clean home.  And it is easier to clean your home when there is less clutter to start with.  I know that when I decided that the living room was no longer going to be the toy room as well (meaning that the toys did not live in the living room, not that the kids couldn’t play with them in the living room) – it was so nice to be in the living room without piles of toys.  And now it only takes a few minutes to get the living room straightened up and ready for company. 

I’ve found the same principle to be true with my schedule.   If I am always running around doing stuff, I get worn out mentally and physically.  I am the type of person who likes to be involved – I realize now that it is a re-occurring theme in my life.  I got involved in a lot of groups and activities in high school and in college.  I guess I didn’t want to miss out on anything.  When I quit my full-time job to be a full-time stay-at-home mom, I felt like I had to take my children out to every single “fun” event around town – I didn’t want to miss out on anything.  After a while, I realized that I wasn’t having a good time and I wasn’t so sure that my very young children were enjoying the activities either.  I finally realized that some activities were better left for when they were older and could enjoy them more.  And I realized that they enjoyed being at home playing just as much as anything else – maybe even more so.  Of course, now that they are older they beg me for the zoo and the Imagination Station, etc.

I’m also the kind of person who likes to get things done – I like the sense of accomplishment.  I would often find myself saying yes to more and more commitments.  It would get to the point where those commitments were distracting me from my primary ministry – my family.  In early 2009, I found myself very overloaded and overwhelmed.  I felt God calling me to release almost all of my outside commitments.  So, over the span of several months, I released them one by one.  I had to ask myself for each commitment: is this commitment REALLY helping me to achieve the things that God has called me – Elissa Teal – to do.  I can remember feeling so free after giving up all those extras.  I remember telling my friends this little nugget of discovered wisdom. 

“There are many GOOD and GODLY things to do out there.  But what are the things that GOD wants you personally to do?”  

Have you ever thought about that?  Pray for God’s leading – ask Him what He wants you to do.  I guarantee you that the ministry that He wants you to place the highest value on is your family – your husband, your children.  Only after you are doing well in your primary ministry of family would I encourage you to take on additional serving opportunities.  And that only after praying for God’s leading for a particular ministry or commitment.

Okay, so my final thought on a simple home is to evaluate what is cluttering your home and your time and your mind.  Clean out that which does not help you achieve the goals that you have embraced.

An Engaged Home (an exerpt from my 11/3/11 MOMentum talk)

The next topic is an engaged home and it dovetails perfectly with a simple home.  Once you have simplified your home and schedule a bit, then you can focus on your primary ministry -- your family.  I said this earlier but I will say it again.  Your children are your primary mission field.  I implore you to win your husband’s and children’s hearts by loving them as you love Jesus.  Jesus said in Luke 6:31 “Do to others as you would like them to do to you.” He also told this story in Matthew 25: 31 – 40 “ 31 “But when the Son of Man[d] comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne. 32 All the nations[e] will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left.
 34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. 36 I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’
 37 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? 39 When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
 40 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters,[f] you were doing it to me!’”

Determine to take some time each day to be fully present with each of your children – put the phone away, close Facebook, turn the TV off.  Think of the things that each of your children like to do.  Jayson loves to play Mancala (a board game) and to snuggle, George likes to play video games, and Gary Nicholas likes to color together, play cars, and to snuggle.  My husband likes to go for a drive together and get appetizers at a restaurant occasionally -- and of course spending alone time with me.    It may be a sacrifice for you to do the things that your loved ones do – I hate video games but I am willing to share in that experience because it makes George feel loved that mommy does a few rounds of Angry Birds with him.  And I often feel like I have 10 million things that need to get done around the house and taking time to snuggle with my boys could feel like an inconvenience but I consciously decide that it is more important to give my children the attention that they desire because I know that it makes them feel loved and when they feel loved then they feel secure in their relationship with me.  And when they feel secure and loved by me, when I teach them about God who loves them then they can better conceptualize God.  They trust me and they trust what I tell them.

Additionally, when I know that they have had their “love tank” filled I don’t have to feel bad when I have to say that mommy is busy right now and I cannot play but we can play later.  They trust me that I will play with them later.

One of the best ways to engage your child or your husband is to speak their love language.  The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman was a life-changing book.  My husband’s mother gave it to us right before we married and I am ever so grateful that she did.  It was so eye-opening.  It helped us discover how to love each other well by understanding how each of us best feels loved.  So, in case you have never heard of love languages before, there are five: 1. Words of Affirmation 2. Quality Time 3. Receiving Gifts 4. Acts of Service 5. Physical Touch

Here are the definitions from the website – 5lovelanguages dot com.

Words of Affirmation
·        Actions don’t always speak louder than words. If this is your love language, unsolicited compliments mean the world to you. Hearing the words, “I love you,” are important—hearing the reasons behind that love sends your spirits skyward. Insults can leave you shattered and are not easily forgotten.
Quality Time
·        In the vernacular of Quality Time, nothing says, “I love you,” like full, undivided attention. Being there for this type of person is critical, but really being there—with the TV off, fork and knife down, and all chores and tasks on standby—makes your significant other feel truly special and loved. Distractions, postponed dates, or the failure to listen can be especially hurtful.

Receiving Gifts
·        Don’t mistake this love language for materialism; the receiver of gifts thrives on the love, thoughtfulness, and effort behind the gift. If you speak this language, the perfect gift or gesture shows that you are known, you are cared for, and you are prized above whatever was sacrificed to bring the gift to you. A missed birthday, anniversary, or a hasty, thoughtless gift would be disastrous—so would the absence of everyday gestures.

Acts of Service
·        Can vacuuming the floors really be an expression of love? Absolutely! Anything you do to ease the burden of responsibilities weighing on an “Acts of Service” person will speak volumes. The words he or she most want to hear: “Let me do that for you.” Laziness, broken commitments, and making more work for them tell speakers of this language their feelings don’t matter.

Physical Touch
·        This language isn’t all about the bedroom. A person whose primary language is Physical Touch is, not surprisingly, very touchy. Hugs, pats on the back, holding hands, and thoughtful touches on the arm, shoulder, or face—they can all be ways to show excitement, concern, care, and love. Physical presence and accessibility are crucial, while neglect or abuse can be unforgivable and destructive.
If you are still not sure of your own love language, you can go to Dr. Chapman’s website and take a quiz to find out what your primary love language is.  The website is  There are also quizzes for children to take so that you can find out what your child’s love language is.  Just click on the assessments tab.

A Peaceful Home (an exerpt from my 11/3/11 MOMentum talk)

Lastly, we come to fostering a peaceful home.  I would encourage you to pray for wisdom to see what is causing any strife in your home.

I’m sure that you are all familiar with the Duggar family – Michelle and Jim Bob have 19 children and they have a TLC and Discovery Channel reality TV show called 17 Kids and Counting then 18 Kids and Counting. Well, they have written several books that are just so inspiring.  One is called The Duggars: 20 and Counting and then another called A Love that Multiplies.  While the TV shows were neat to watch, the books really show the Duggar’s hearts for God and for others.  They share an intimate look at how they love and manage such a large family.  None of the family members are perfect and conflicts do arise but Michelle and Jim Bob share how they teach conflict resolution.

For conflicts between children, Michelle says that they do not just have the offender say “I’m sorry”.  She says that she asks the child what he or she did wrong and let’s the child answer.  Then she asks them what they should have done.  Then the child is instructed to say “I’m sorry for ‘such and such offense’, I was wrong, will you please forgive me?”  Then the hurt child has the opportunity to forgive the offender.  It helps the children learn about empathy – how the other child feels.  And it reinforces that we need to ask forgiveness, not just say “I’m sorry”.

The other bit of wisdom that I learned from the Duggar’s books is that I need to watch the tone of my voice when I am speaking to my children and my husband.  I admit that it can be easy for me to have an annoyed tone when someone comes to me and asks me for something when I am in the middle of doing something else.  What I realized is that my children started to answer me in an annoyed tone when I would ask them for something.  It was very humbling when my husband pointed that out to me.  So, in the book, Michelle shares that she has given her permission to her children to gently put their hand on her arm if they sense that her tone of voice is angry or annoyed.  This reminds Michelle to change her tone and her attitude while talking to or correcting her children.  This is a great way to keep yourself in check.  Just don’t get annoyed when a little hand is placed on your arm while you are correcting your children.

I can attest that it does pay off to model the behavior that you want your children to have.  We have been complimented many times that our children are thoughtful and kind and I attribute that to the fact that my husband and I consistently treat each other well in words and in actions.  Children really do imitate those whom they are around the most.  I love this poem by Dorothy Law Nolte called:

“Children Live What They Learn”
If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.
If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.
If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.
If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.
If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
If children live with fairness, they learn justice.
If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.
If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.