Moms in the world today are constantly tempted to compare ourselves to other moms. Social media makes that even easier to do. You see a friend post photos of her cute children with their perfect life and are tempted to think your life lacks in so many ways. That you lack as a mom and a wife. Today I hope you are encouraged that God wants to guide you as a mom. He wants to give you the tools you need–not to be THAT mom, but to be THEIR mom.
We met Staci and Chris at the children’s home that was on the campus of the church we served in NC. They take seriously their roles as parents, keeping in mind they are forming a foundation for a lifelong journey with Christ. This is inspiring to me and I wanted her to share some of her thoughts and teaching models with us. Read and enjoy!
[Staci has also included links in her post for you to click if you want more information]
I was the baby of my family for 17 years. I didn’t spend days upon days dreaming about being a mommy. I did have a baby-doll, named Jody, and she was my world as a toddler. I do recall having baby names picked out as a young teen, but only because all the other girls did that.
When I seventeen, I moved away from my home and family in North Carolina, and attended a ministry program in Alabama. It was there that I dedicated my life to the Lord and chose to accept His Call on my life. Now fast forward 16 years to the present day. I am no longer the baby of my family, I have a wonderful little sister. I am no longer single, I married a handsome godly man, and now have three beautiful children on earth, and one in heaven. We live on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. We are youth pastors at a church. We’ve had this role before–we were in Seguin, Texas for 5 years as youth and children’s pastors. The only difference now is that we have 3 children.
Life with children and life without are two worlds apart. When I had my daughter, I was 25 years old. I remember being so nervous about the big picture. I knew I could deliver her with the help of a great hospital, and I could feed her and change her diaper. I had that all under control–It was the parent part that scared me. I had dealt with many parents of teens and children, but becoming one was terrifying for me! I was so afraid of messing up!
It took me a little while to get pregnant with my daughter, so we didn’t want to wait too long to start trying again for another. Little did I know, you are more fertile after giving birth. So, 15 months later I welcomed a little boy into my world. This only amplified my fear of parenting. Now I was responsible for two little lives!
We made a life change and moved across country to North Carolina. We lived with my mother. My husband took a job at a local box plant, and I stayed at home with the kids. Everyday when he would get home at 4:15 I would check out mentally and physically. I would shower and try to relax. I always felt like I was at the mercy of my children. That they were in charge. They called the shots. It was very life changing for me, the independent girl who left home at the age of 17, was now being ruled by a baby and a 1 year old. My little girl was also showing signs of a speech delay, making matters worse. She was not able to communicate with me, and so we were both frustrated. I look back at those days and think they were so LONG! I was always tired, stressed and scared that I was not doing a good job at being a mom. I had read all the right books, followed the rules, and attend church faithfully.
I wanted to be “that mom” you know the one who is calm, the one who never raises her voice, or her hand. The one that speaks so sweetly to her kids. The one who always has an extra change of clothes for the baby and herself. The one who has the healthy snacks, the one who prays sweet prayers over her children each night while they sleep. The one who, scrapbooks every memory, blogs, bakes homemade goodies all the time, cooks from scratch, creates recipes, sews all the kids clothing, crafts with the kids daily, and throws the biggest birthday bashes on the planet. The one who reads to their child and inspires learning. The one who teaches their child sign language as an infant and how to read and write before Kindergarten. The one who has their child quoting the Bible and singing solos in the church or playing the piano at the tender age of 4. The mom that home schools, takes cool field trips, I wanted to be “that mom”–not the mom I was.
I struggled daily with who I was NOT, instead of thanking God for what I actually was. I had friends who seem to have the “mom card” down. They knew what to do when, where and why. I was always checking books, the internet and doubting myself.
I had not embraced who I was in Christ. I had not embraced the power that was within me. I had not allowed God to lead me into the role as “mother.” I learned so much about the love God has for me as his Child once I had my own children. I learned that all things are possible with him.
In 2009, my husband was offered a job at a Children’s home, with one exception, his wife must come with him and work too. That was me. The wife. The mother of two. The girl who had it all together on the outside, but felt like I was not doing a good job as a mother on the inside. The ironic part is that we took on a job, as “Teaching Parents” in a home for troubled teens. I was about to be paid to be a parent. The very part of my heart that felt like I the failing the most at was now being put to the test, publicly!
This particular home used what is known as the Teaching Family Model. I know that God ordained our steps when we took this job. The training for the model was quickly adapted and used with our own children. I, for once, felt like I was the one in charge! We started in March, and in September we welcomed another baby boy. I was, by this time, fully trained in this model and walking toward being the mom God designed me to be. Keeping in mind that when my little one was born, my other two were still in diapers. So that is three of them in diapers at the same time. My job paid for diapers! (I should have been “that mom” who uses cloth diapers.)
I was thankful when my oldest decided to finally use the potty. Again- because she was 3 and 1/2 before she used the potty it was another “fail” in my eyes. Every time my child didn’t meet the “norm” or the by-the-book growth requirements I felt like I failed.
The model we used empowers the child to make choices and allows them to see that their behavior determines the consequence. Good behavior equals desired consequence, poor behaviors results in less-desired consequence. The consequence should reflect the behavior. If the child refused to follow instructions, the the consequence would be centered around that: practicing following instructions, or doing small task that require you to follow instructions and complete them. Until they were willing to complete their consequence, they remained at a stand still-no exciting outings, or family fun. It was their choice. They chose their behavior, therefore they chose how they spent their day. Helping them learn they are in charge of themselves was a great task, but very fulfilling. We used this similar model with our kids, but instead of just trying to get them to model good behaviors because we asked them to, we wanted get to the heart of the matter. The Teaching Family model isn’t a christian model, but it works really well as a starting point. We didn’t want to just create robots that do what we want. We didn’t want to just modify the outward behavior.
We had the opportunity to attend a two day workshop by Tedd Trip, author of Shepherding a Child’s Heart. It was in downtown Charlotte at First Baptist Church. I remember when we went I was so eager to learn everything I could. I took more notes than anyone, and my brain was a sponge and my heart was encouraged. I felt as if God had come down and sat with me during those services. I was finally able to smile when I thought about the privilege I have to the be mother of my three children. Pastor Tripp’s style of teaching was intense. I bought his book and took it home the first night. I remember feeling a little under-educated as I tried to make sense of it all.
The next day, he begin to speak of Ginger Plowman, another author who wrote a book titled “Don’t make me count to three.” Along with other books about training up children. She also had a chart that made a quick reference of scriptures that deal with issues day in and day out. It’s called Wise Words for Moms. It’s a handy chart that every mother should have! I purchased her book and the chart at the workshop too, and read it in two days. I could relate to her writing style better than Pastor Tripp. They both speak about the same subject, not trying to merely correct the outward behavior of the child, but the inward motives for the behavior. The children’s home we worked for didn’t encourage the use of the Bible as an instruction manual for life, and we were encouraged to not use it for examples when doing a teaching interaction. This sadden our hearts, and we knew quickly that our time there was finished.
The Lord opened the doors for us to move to South Mississippi. We moved to Waveland, MS in 2010. My husband took on the role as Youth/Associate Pastor once again, and I became a stay at home mom, again. Though this time around I was more prepared! I had discovered the Duggar Family Rules, and posted them up in the house. My children were only 4, 2, 10 months when we moved here, so the rules were more for me to set up a foundation of what is expected in the home. I admit that the methods we use now for behavioral management wouldn’t work as well for the younger kids, you have to modify and simplify it for them. You also have to take into consideration the child. Every child is different and will respond differently. The older they got, the more expectations we had for them. They are now 7, 6, and 4.
This summer we started using the behavior chart found on the website: Oh My Gluestick. This chart helped provide a visual aid for my children. We also incorporated the pom pom and jars that she mentioned. We started this chart in May of 2013 and it’s still going strong in the Cook house. The kids know the rules that we have set. They know that if they don’t follow the rules, they must move their clips down on the chart. They also know that no one is in charge of their behaviors except for them. Blaming someone else and saying “he made,” or “she made” me do it, won’t fly around here. We have decided to review our rules as a refresher. For several weeks, we took Sunday nights to teach one rule. I sat down at the table with them and had them write the rule out, then draw a picture of them obeying that rule or create a drawing that helps them actively embrace the rules. The weeks that we were busy and skipped, my daughter quickly reminded me that we need to make it up and not let it slide! Amazing how kids function under a structured environment.
I remember being told that in the middle of my chaos with them as little children, that they “just needed structure and routine” and you might as well said they needed millions of dollars worth of surgery or something else out of reach. I was not at a place where I could begin to put structure in, routine in, or order. My life was not in turmoil, or a whirlwind, I had no trauma or grief that would stop me from being their mom and creating order. I had no reason not to be there for my kids. I was just in need of a Savior. I needed the Lord to remind me that he blessed us with these children, we were the only parents they had and the time I had was short with them. I had to embrace the fact that I may not be “THAT mom” but I am “THEIR mom”! Powerful revelation. I will say it again, I may not be “THAT Mom” but I am “THEIR Mom”!
This is something I have to remind myself of daily. Even Saturday when I was at the soccer field, I had to retrieve something from my van, I was drawn to the van next to me, they had a bowl full of fruit sitting on the front seat. It was then I thought to myself- oh that’s a good idea! I should be like that! Instead we had crackers and junk food in our van.
I think we all have moms that we want to be like, we see people living, and giving to their children and we want to do better. Yet we often see mom’s who aren’t doing so great with their kids and say to ourselves “well at least I’m not that bad!” This concept is sad too, because as Children of God, we should strive to do our best. One saying that has stuck with me over the years, is we do our best and let God do the rest!
Read with me in the Word of God:
James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
Colossians 3:17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.
Proverbs 29:17 Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart.
1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
2 Corinthians 12:9-10 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Psalm 118:14 The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.
These are all truths that I stand on. I am still a work in progress and I raise my voice and get flustered when my kids get into arguments or get loud. Even while I typed this, I had to take a break and remind them of the expectations we have for them. One of my current hardships with discipline is in the area of behaving during a church service. Because my husband is a youth pastor, we are there every time the doors open and even when they aren’t! The kids see the church as a second home most days. So they have a tendency to act up, fight or argue during church. My pride gets the best of me, and I feel that other people are judging me, for my child’s behavior and unwillingness to participate. We are working with them on it! I always tell them that by them learning to obey mommy and daddy now, it will make it easier for them in life to obey the Lord when they are an adult. It’s so important that they learn to obey. Obedience is better than sacrifice. Helping others and showing compassion are key points we cover too.
I pray daily that the Lord will help me be the mom he needs me to be for them. I count it all joy, the hardships, the pain, the tears, and all the fun moments in between. I pray that someone reading this is encouraged. That you can relate. No one has perfect children. No one has perfect parents. But we do have hope, because we have a perfect role model for both. God the Father, and God the Son. I encourage you to look at your behavior toward the Lord. How similar is it to the behaviors your child shows you? Do you constantly whine, and cry and complain or tattle? Or do you remain thankful, honest and open to what the Lord has for you? Do you ask the Lord for something and not wait on the answer before you act? My children do that often! I pray today that the Lord wraps his arms around you, that you feel his embrace, that you sit at his feet a little while and reflect on the truths of the scriptures posted in this blog post. Remember, God knew you and your child BEFORE you were even a thought- before you were formed in the womb. He knew you. You can trust him with your weaknesses. He is not surprised by them. He is ready for you. Are you ready?