Being a Mom, My Greatest Joy

Dr. Kevin Leman forgiveness, legacy, hope,

Like many women I know, I was brought up unprepared for the challenges of motherhood. In return, I did not seek after it with much enthusiasm. I was afraid of what might happen if I were to bring children into the world because I was filled with anger and bitterness from my own childhood. Every child longs for love, acceptance, comfort, and approval and I am no different. When these needs are unmet, a child/young adult will seek to have them met in things such as drugs, sex, control, money, success, or unhealthy relationships. Thankfully, I encountered the only person who could give me unconditional and perfect love, acceptance, comfort and approval and that was Jesus Christ. He gives freely and without any strings attached. His redemptive love rescued me on February 25, 1987 when my husband, Jon, and I together accepted Christ. I received exactly what I needed to begin the journey of motherhood as I was given the Holy Spirit to teach and guide me (John 14:26; 16:13). In time I forgave my parents as it did me no good to harbor bitterness or resentment toward them. Dr. Kevin Leman says, “Forgiving is not saying what happened was okay and it’s not excusing it, but it is allowing something new to grow.” Today I am able to celebrate new beginnings.

2 Corinthians 5:17 (CEV) Anyone who belongs to Christ is a new person. The past is forgotten, and everything is new.

How exciting my past need not limit my ability nor yours to be a godly mother, that’s the beauty of the Christian life. You may not be able to change your past, however, by being proactive you can change the legacy you leave. Recently my mother praised me saying, “Cherie, I’ve turned you away from me; just like my mother did to me. I wish I could have broken the cycle before it affected you and your sister. I’m grateful that you have not continued the same cycle with your daughters; this makes me really proud. Maybe it will end with you? ” Sadly, her choices limited our relationship for many years. I celebrate that my choices are to build relationships with my daughters and leave a better legacy. I in no way can take credit for the changes that have occurred in my life. In my weaknesses, God is strong. Instead of facing inadequacies alone, I have learned that, “My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:2). Where we may feel ill equipped, God is there to be our strength. After all, like the old adage goes, “God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called.”  God’s word is a critical tool in preparing us for our calling as mothers. I chose to be in God’s word, study it, meditate on it and live it out. More importantly seeking and desiring an intimate relationship with my Maker broke so many chains as I discovered who I was in Him verses my family of origin, In Christ my life has purpose and meaning.  I celebrate that God’s word gives direction and as we are faithful to follow Him, we hope our children too, will follow in our footsteps thus breaking the bondage of generational sins. Psalm 119:105

I purposed to be a mother based on biblical principles instead of social norms or past experiences. This choice lead me on a journey completely different than I ever experienced or envisioned. Along the journey, God placed spiritual parents in my life to help strengthen and teach me as I traveled the journey of motherhood. I am thankful for these amazing individuals that discipled me by investing in my life personally. When I was unable to find encouragement face to face I realized it could be found through books, conferences, and classes for a season. The point is you want to grow and thrive in your relationship with Christ by replacing wrong thinking with truth. I was challenged to stop complaining about what I didn’t have, but instead shape my legacy with what I did have via a mission statement asking what do I wish to pass on to my children?  I celebrate that with God all things are possible even leaving a godly legacy. Matthew 19:26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Being a mother has been one of the greatest joys in my life, certainly one worth celebrating. I am in awe that my two eldest daughters have both graduated from college and are living amazing lives that are bringing glory to God as they seek to serve Him. I am so proud of them. They are obedient and respectful of others and us. They challenge me with their walk and love for God. They have been some of the best teachers in my life. My youngest daughter continues to grow and mature as I seek to lay a solid biblical foundation for her by making sure she knows and loves the Lord.  My greatest joy is knowing that my children are walking in the truth and following Jesus with their whole hearts which is biblical (2 John 1:4).  What more could I want as a mother?  I celebrate motherhood and the three precious gifts that God blessed me with, as children indeed are a gift from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Psalm 127

Oh I have so much to celebrate as I was given the opportunity to be a mother and, together with Jon, we have raised a godly heritage. I see the fruit of our labor and celebrate that with God all things are possible even for a reluctant mother like I was. My hope is to encourage those traveling the journey of motherhood feeling ill equipped.

As a mother what desires do you have for your children?  Read 2 John 1:4, “It has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as the Father commanded us.” What can you purpose to do that would set your children on the right path to walk in truth?

12 Ways to Connect With Your Children

Don’t let yourself become so concerned with raising a good kid that you forget you already have oneDear Moms,

Don’t let yourself become so concerned with raising a good kid that you forget you already have one.  Believing in your child and highlighting their assets creates a strong connection between you and your child.

Today’s American families are starving for connection. Personally, I have found 5 C’s helpful to remember – connect (just do it), consistency matters, put time together on the family calendar , be creative, and communicate your desires plus seek their input.

Below are several ways my family has connected over the years. While these suggestions will look different for each family, I personally appreciate looking into how others go about life.

1) Family Mealtime by far has been one of the most important ways for our family to connect and develop a sense of who we are as a family. We aim to sit down and eat at least five meals together achieving far more.

Mealtime is one way to provide a nutritious meal along with a healthy deposit of quality time into one another’s lives. Understandably, toddlers can be difficult to manage at the table, but remember, table time is a golden opportunity to train them. Over time, with consistency, they will become accustomed to sitting, listening, and participating in the good conversations and fun during mealtime.   We view family dinner as a time to connect, laugh, tell stories and catch up on one another’s daily “high point and low point.”

2) Establish a family night where together you play board games, watch family movies, look through family photos or videos, enjoy pizza, etc.… As your children get older let them become involved with the planning.

3) Spend quality time daily with your child. Kids spell love T-I-M-E and know the difference between quality verse quantity investments. It’s easy to assume that you spend all day with your child but are you connecting? Make a habit of getting down on the floor to enter your toddler’s world. Ask your grade school children what quality time would look like to them.

4) Date your children. My girls relished the one on one time they would have with their dad or me. It was fun to take them places they enjoyed such as ice cream as well as allowing their dad to occasionally treat them to a special dinner, teaching them what it’ like to be lavished by a man. I found having a monthly date with our children allowed them to share their hearts more deeply as they didn’t have to compete for attention and it gave them something special to look forward to.

People always told me that my girls would grow up quickly, but I had no idea just how fast time would pass. When my girls were toddlers while attending a MOPS gathering, someone read the poem below. Neither my husband nor I can read this poem without tearing up.

Poem to busy to stop and play

5) Make memories by celebrating milestones. Memories are those once in a lifetime events that mark the moment. Consider the many first events in a child’s life and creatively finds ways to commemorate them. Events we celebrated include first Christmas, relinquishing a pacifier, potty training, beginning Kindergarten, accepting Christ, baptism, completing elementary school, menstruation, graduation, etc.…

celebrating birth of child and becoming a big sister

 

6) Make holidays, special events, and family traditions meaningful. Traditions are the things you do year after year and are known as the “We always do___________________.” An older post I wrote on meaningful traditions offers suggestions on cultivating traditions.

7) Have endearing names and special saying. Jon fondly calls Cayley “K-Bob.” When parting one another’s presences we usually say, “God be with you and I love you,” while waving the I love you sign. SHMILY – See how much I love you.

I love you, special sayings, goodbye

Cherie Werner @thewerners.org

8) Make your home a sanctuary, a safe and inviting place that your children and their friends would want to hangout. It helps to maintain a kid friendly home verse a museum that discourages kids from being kids in fear of breaking things.

9) Serve together. Service should begin in the home to each other and be carried into the world outside the walls of the family.  As a family we began serving the homeless of Austin when my daughters were toddlers.  We have gone on several mission trips to Mexico one when Cayley was three.

serving together as a family

Suggestions for toddlers:

  • Teach your kids to serve by providing opportunities for them to serve others while they serve alongside you.
  • Teach children how to pray for missionaries.
  • Collect bottles of shampoo and soap to donate to a women’s shelter
  • Donate toys and gently used clothing.
  • Give gifts to less fortunate kids at Christmas time. (Operation Christmas Child boxes, Christmas Angel,
  • 2-year-old can help with household tasks – unloading the bottom rack of the dishwasher, setting the table, making bed, pushing the laundry basket down the hall
  • Serve the elderly neighbors by bringing them a card or meal or just pay them a visit.

Adolescents need to know that they matter. As your children mature, it’s helpful to find volunteer opportunities that fit their personality.

  • Homeless shelters or outreaches
  • Visit a nursing home
  • Food Banks
  • Ronald McDonalds House
  • Visit little ones at local Children’s hospital

10) Invest and be interested in your child’s passions. Becoming a student of your children is helpful in discovering what their gifts, talents, and abilities are. Since we are all created for a purpose, we must help our children discover their unique place. Previously in a post, I answered this question, “How did you discern your children’s career desires and passions? How did that direct their educational choices both in high school and transitioning beyond high school to college?”

11) Express your love and appreciation via the written word.  Slip notes into their lunch box or under their pillow. Begin a parent-child journal to go between each other sharing positive words of blessing, recognition, gratitude and hopes for the future.

12) Bedtime routines provide a wonderful time for connecting with little ones.  As you bathe, cuddle, read and pray together you mostly likely will encounter inquisitive children who are slowing down enough to verbally process their busy day.

While it goes without saying there are numerous ways to connect with your children.  Your job is to just do it.  The benefits are numerous.  Please share some ways you connect best with your child(ren).

Modesty, When Understanding the Why, Kids Are More Likely to Comply

1 Peter 3:3-4, culture, modesty, appearance, teens,

A question I often get asked,  “How did you handle modesty with your daughters?”

Modesty should be taught in love rather than out of fear.  Early on in our parenting we were more legalistic operating in rule-based living verses freedom.  “Your skirt should be two inches below the knee.” “Your shorts need to be a certain length.” “A girl should wear skirts.”

While modesty may be a difficult concept to teach our daughters, we must persevere.

Our desire was first to instill in the girls character and dignity.  We did our best to show them how their attire and demeanor had a correlation with the way they would be treated by men. Our focus was on their inner beauty rather than outer appearances.  Thereby instilling in them confidence, friendliness, love, joy, kindness, a servants heart and along with other godly characteristics which exude beauty.  It’s a lot easier to teach modesty to children grounded in character.

My husband monopolized teachable moments to point out “sexualization” in the media and discuss how some of the girls on magazine covers, and in movies, were revealing too much skin. He shared the impact that dressing had on some men.  As such, our daughters began to understand that wearing little clothing was like advertising their bodies. He taught them that the bait they used would lure in the type of fish they attract.

Below are 7 tips to consider when teaching modesty to your children.

7 Tips for teaching MODESTY 

M Mom, modesty begins with you.  Remember more is caught than taught. It’s helpful to model virtue and beauty to your children.

It’s certainly okay to look beautiful and be fashionable, but I believe that the posture of the heart is a key that can be accomplished by encouraging our children to cultivate a deep and meaningful relationship with Jesus.

O Use Object lessons.  Jesus was a master story teller and often used visual aids such a vine and children to teach object lessons. Walking through a vineyard while traveling to Gethsemane, he taught the importance of remaining connected to him using a grapevine. He placed a child on his knee to teach the disciples if they wanted to be first, they must be last — they must become as “little children.” (Matthew 18).

Amy Bennett shared about what her young daughters (8 & 10) taught her about modesty.  She decided to dress up in (somewhat) immodest outfits and have her daughters dress her more modestly.  Kids learn best by role playing. Visual aids make memorable lessons.

D Define standards for modesty from the get go.  If you haven’t set the tone early on, it will be harder to expect your teens to cover themselves up.  Allowing a young child to wear a bikini until she develops and then insisting she wear a one piece will send mixed messages. It is important to be clear and consistent.

If we allow young girls to wear clothing far too old for them or dress them in a sexually suggestive manner they may want to continue as they get older sending the wrong message.

In our home after my girls went shopping they would model their purchases in front of their dad.  All clothing purchases had to pass both our approval.

E Explain the reasons behind your decisions. Give children a reason to your decisions and be sure you are in agreement as a couple.  As your children mature, dialogue with them about modesty knowing they will probably push the limits from time to time.  Don’t merely seek outward conformity rather develop a heart connection.

Having Caryn’s heart and being unified on clothing decisions when she decided to participate in the local Austin Teen Beauty pageant produced a surprising outcome which I will share in my next post :-)

S Scrutinize clothing choices with your children.  Be sure to compliment and highlight outfits that are appropriate. Use teachable moments to discuss what could make immodest outfits more appropriate.

Ask questions.

  • “Are you trading in your moral values (modesty) to model the latest fashion?”
  • “What do you think about the outfit you are wearing?”
  • Are you trying to bring attention and glory to yourself, or to God?”
  • “Are you mimicking what others are wearing to fit into the current fashion?”

T True Identity matter.  Communicate from early on how valuable your daughter is to you and God.  Focus on her inner beauty more than outer appearance. Remind her that her worth is not based on her looks, abilities, where she lives, or what others may think.  Rather her worth is based on how God sees and values her (Psalm 139:13-15) and it never changes (Roman 8:38-39). God’s love is unconditional.

Y You are a parent. You may feel powerless but ultimately you have veto rights over your daughters’ wardrobe so long as they are living under your roof. Be secure in your role as a parent to exercise that control.  However as the parent explain your decision-making process. When kids understand the why they are more likely to comply. 

Modesty should never be about shaming the female body. We should dress modestly because our bodies are God’s masterpieces and the ‘temple of the Holy Spirit’.

1 Timothy 2-9, culture, modesty, appearance, teens,

It is impossible to dress in a way that prevents other people from stumbling 100% of the time which is not the point. Modesty is not about wearing a burlap bag in an attempt to hide the female form and somehow prevent men from lusting. Modesty is about valuing yourself. It is about learning to love how God made you as a woman. It is about knowing how precious you are, every part of you, and not wanting or needing to flaunt it through less fabric on your body. Modesty is not gauged by whether or not someone will easily be tempted to lust after you. It is the poise, grace and a sense of value that naturally manifests itself through the attire chosen on a daily basis. Teach your daughters their value and instill in them an understanding of their strength.

Lastly, I implore fathers to be present in their daughter’s lives as I think my husbands honest, gentle, and loving involvement in our daughter’s lives has had the greatest impact on them.  Dads need to verbalize how proud they are of their daughters and how beautiful they are. Dad’s tell your daughters they can be leaders and have a powerful voice. Words of affirmation will have the greatest impact on what your child chooses to wear. You can teach them about modesty, but without captivating their heart they will see through the rules and have no problem wearing jackets before leaving the house in an effort to cover up their plunging necklines.

Do you talk to your kids about what’s important to you, to them, and to God? Do they understand the WHY behind clothing decisions?