A Four generational look at motherhood
Week three: My Treasure, My Heart
Proverbs 24:3–“By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established.”
Three words, three words spoken that change your life forever, ready or not…”You Are Pregnant!”
Whether those words come to you long anticipated, or whether those words come to you as a surprise, they truly change your life forever!
I will never forget when I looked at the markings on that magical stick and it had a + sign. Then I went to my first doctor appointment and I heard those words spoken to me, “You are pregnant!” We were ready, we had prayed, and God was giving us a blessing, ready or not! Was I ready? is anybody ever really ready? I grew up playing with dolls and Barbies, dreaming of the day I would be a mom. I had fantasized about it and how I would hold that sweet bundle in my arms, rock her/him to sleep, say prayers at night over them, and cuddle them every chance I could. I was blessed to have been given two great examples of being a good mom, but still the question remained: was I ready?
Well, ready or not, it was happening! Jim and I had been married three years, and had decided together that we were ready to start trying to have a family. Little did I know it would happen so quickly! From all the stories I had heard it would take a while…First time was a charm for us, we were going to be parents, ready or not! I loved my time with Jim, starting a life together, our adventures together, just the two of us, setting up a home together, and beginning our ministry life together. Was I ready to add another? I have a feeling this is how most of us feel, when the daunting reality is finally placed before us, that we are going to be raising another life.
I want to be very sensitive here and acknowledge the fact that many try for years and struggle to hear those words “you are pregnant.” Others struggle for years and never get to hear the words, “you are pregnant.” While others hear the words “you are pregnant,” yet you never intended for that to be the outcome. While yet others of us, you hear the words “you are pregnant,” and are not blessed to carry that pregnancy to full-term. That happened to me at the end of four months with my second pregnancy. It was a painful part of my reality, but God has used it to build His character in me even further. But that is a blog post for another time.
Motherhood: in its truest form is loving, nurturing, and caring for another. We are all called to that in some way, shape, or form. You may be an aunt, you may be a stand-in-mom or grandma to someone in your neighborhood or at your church. All around us, there are children that need to feel the love of Jesus. And we can all fulfill this calling to some point. This calling brings us back to the reality of ready or not, you are responsible for another being.
Was I am ready for this task? No! Was I excited at the possibilities that lay ahead? Yes! But I think if any of us are honest, we are all scared at the possibility of being responsible for someone other than ourselves. It’s scary enough to be responsible for yourself!
There is no greater time in my life that I was drawn to my knees in prayer, to God’s word, to open its pages for wisdom and counsel, knowing that on my own I could not do this, but learning to trust and depend on my God who I knew could do it through me!
My husband and I grew together as a couple, as we learned to look to the other for their strengths and depend on them to complement our weaknesses. It forced us to learn to communicate better and more effectively, so that we could be on the same page as far as discipline, expectations, and values. It drove us to create what we call our family values: SWANEY FAMILY VALUES!
Our overriding verse was Matthew 6:33. We were going to be a family that “Matthew 6:33ed it, “To seek first his kingdom, and his righteousness, and all of these things will be added to you.”
Some simple rules we followed:
“Let your yes be yes and your no be no.” Matthew 5:37.
“You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit,” so be content in all things. Philippians 4:12
“Do everything without arguing or complaining.” Philippians 2:14
Along with our family rules or values, there were overriding truths we believed. According to Scripture, our children are gifts from God, a welcome member to our already existing family. Through marriage God creates a family. A family begins with the husband and wife, and that is the primary, foundational relationship in any family. If we are blessed with children, they are welcome family members and beautiful gifts from God. This helped remind this mama that even at the times when I would tend to make them the center of my universe, my relationship with Jim was central, and our kids were welcome members to our already existing family. Yes, there were times when they needed to come first, and things needed to be set aside for their benefit. But it was also equally true that there were times they needed to learn to wait, they needed to learn to give, so that someone else in the family would be first.
Another Family Value we practiced was going to church. Church was a given, not an option. We love God out of His great love for us, and we give back because of what He has done for us, not out of obligation but out of love and our desire to please Him. This meant that we did not use church as a punishment, or a privilege that they could lose. It was simply a lifestyle.
One of our most important family values was instilling the belief that God had created each of them–each one of us–with special, unique, gifts, talents and abilities. We offered many opportunities to discover those abilities to our children. Yes, this may have created a “busy schedule”, at times, but we believed this was an important training ground for our children. Sometimes we need to know what we are not good at something in order to understand what we are good at! It was a valuable lesson to teach our children that they were not good at everything, and so they would need to work hard at the things they were not good at. It also helped them learn compassion for those who are not gifted in the same way. One of my favorite stories to tell about my daughter–but also one of the hardest stories to live through with my daughter–was giving her piano lessons. So many things came easy to her. Playing the piano, however, did not! She started with great enthusiasm, and quickly she wanted to quit. But her dad and I told her she needed to continue. She finished out the first year and it was painful for all of us! But she continued on the second year, and the next year after that. After three years of struggling to learn to play the piano, she could learn by perseverance to do something she was not naturally gifted at, but it took a lot of hard work. At the end of that third year we felt she had indeed learned the lesson, and we were all excited when that came to an end!
For my son it was the painful lesson of “hurry.” When he was in 5th grade, I saw him hurrying through something he was naturally good at, his school studies, but I had to stand back and let him take a lesser grade for not following all of the specific roles in the syllabus, and knew that, in getting that lower grade, he would learn how to slow down, to read over everything carefully, and to do better the next time. To this day I think it was the only C+ he ever received! And since it was only in fifth grade, it didn’t hurt any of his future transcripts! Allowing my children to try, to work hard, and too at times fail, was painful for me as a mom. But in loving them more than life itself, I knew it was the right thing to do for them.
Sports came naturally to our children, but the lessons they learned were invaluable: be a good sport, don’t go bragging and boasting, and be empathetic to all, no matter their skill level or ability.
Colossians 3:13: ” Bear with one another.”
We worked hard to instill the belief that our children were each other’s greatest cheerleaders. We were to be the encouragers for each other first. God gave Tyler one sister, and God gave Christina one brother, God had made us a family, and we were to be each other’s greatest source of strength and encouragement! It was not an option to attend each other’s games or not: it was a family value and expectation. Not comparing oneself to the other, but celebrating each other in all of their achievements. We avoided the comparison trap!
One of the greatest family values that I haven’t mentioned yet, was being confident in the fact that God had called us into ministry as a family. Knowing and believing that God would not have called dad into full-time ministry, if he had not called mom and his children into full-time ministry as well. Once again living out the belief that we were a family, and the children were welcome members into that Christian, dad-as-a-pastor family. We taught our children what we believed: that we were blessed by God to be a blessing to others. That everything we have comes from God, “every good and perfect gift comes from above.” And we were thrilled to be able to take them on the mission field at a very young age, and on many mission trips that followed when they were teenagers, to show them firsthand that the rest of the world needs God, and does not live like we do. This mother’s heart was full of joy and pride as she witnessed her children dig in with full hearts and willing hands!
Parenting can be exhausting! And being a good parent is even more so!
It wasn’t just enough to have our family values, and it wasn’t just enough to tell our children what to do. The hardest part of parenting is living it out by example. Taking the time to explain each value and expectation to your child not just once, but over and over and over again. It also meant giving them the “Why.” Why God is calling us to this behavior; why this is best for our family; why this is best for others around them.
Jim and I determined our goal and God-given role in parenting: “To raise a godly heritage,” one that would grow to know Him, to understand His love for them, choose Him for their own, and serve Him in whatever way, to further God’s kingdom. While this was a large goal, it kept our focus centered. When an issue with discipline arose, we acted on it from this focus. When a choice that may have seemed questionable arose, we acted on it from this focus.
The greatest lesson I learned by being a mom was humility! The reality and truth that I did not have all of the answers and that I was not always right! I was the mom and did have God given authority to train up my children in the way He desired for me to train them up to the very best of my ability. But the only way that I could do that was to seek him earnestly through prayer and to learn with His eyes and gain insight as to who my children really were. My daily prayer was for God to give me His eyes to help me be the mom that he called me to be for Christina and for Tyler. For God to help me to be the wife that Jim needed me to be, and for God to please make me a servant, a woman who would love God first, her husband next, her children after that, and then the world that He put before me.
My first child was a beautiful daughter! Her eyes were so crystal blue that after naming her Christina, my mom told me I should have named her Crystal. I learned quickly that she had the character far more like her father’s than mine! She was determined, far more intelligent than me, and very strong-willed! I used to say that James Dobson’s Book, the strong-willed Child, had nothing on my Christina girl! She was bright, and inquisitive, and was sure that she could be the boss and would be in control if I let her. But I was her mom, and I had the final say. However, she needed to be heard, she needed to make choices for herself, and she needed to know that I loved her and I respected her no matter what. God began to clearly show me that she was my treasure! She was a precious gem, priceless and beyond compare!
Tyler on the other hand, had a natural character more like mine. I never had to ask him how he was feeling: he wore his heart on his sleeve. I understood him more easily and readily, yet he was a boy and that was very different! I needed him to learn to respect me, and to let him know that I respected him as well. God clearly demonstrated to me that he was my heart, that I was to love him with all of mine, but I was to allow him to grow and develop on his own. As much as I dearly desire to, I could not hold on too tightly to my children. I had to realize that I was called to train them up in the way that God wanted them to go, and then eventually I needed to let go and let them be God’s! They were mine for a time, for a very precious time. But our goal as parents–and my goal as a mom–was to raise up a godly heritage that would be strong and confident in Him and in Him alone so that they could go on to accomplish His will and purposes and continue to build His kingdom here on earth in their generation!
We established rules, we told them the “what” (here are the rules) and the “why” (here is why we should obey them). We told them that we were a family, but the most vital part of our call was not to “talk the talk”, but to “walk the walk!” Our children were going to become who they became, to a large degree because of who and what they saw in us. We lived under the same rules and authority that they did, the same rules that govern them under God, governed us under God!
Today, I am a mama with an empty nest! I still get a catch in my throat and a tear in my eye when I say that. I miss my children every single day! But because of God’s grace and wisdom and faithfulness, I do not worry about them. I enjoy them as the adult children that they are! They are both out there in full-time ministry, using their gifts and passions to change their world and bring people to faith in Jesus. I love them with all of my heart. And they remain to this day my beautiful girl Christina, my treasure. And my handsome son Tyler, my heart!
Your kids are yours for a season. You are to raise them, train them and send them!
My children are God’s first and foremost! We have the unique role as Mother’s to train them, build into them, encourage them and love them unconditionally. Remember that they are only yours for a season-truthfully, they are God’s, and you have the blessing of raising them! Pour into them, pray over them, love them like crazy! The time is short, but the impact is eternal!
Proverbs 24:3 “By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established.”
See you next week for our final week in our Motherhood series!
Speak Truth Love