I spent most of my professional career living in constant anxiety, waiting for the other shoe to drop. Performance reviews filled me with fear that “this time they were finally gonna realize, I don’t even belong here!” I lived in constant dread that the gig was about to be up. But it wasn’t. I never got fired. In fact, I consistently got promoted, awarded, and advanced. This is not a carefully crafted humblebrag. I am telling you this to illustrate something you, that – if you are reading this right now – you probably already know very well: There is a rigid dichotomy between the internal and external realities of someone who suffers from impostor syndrome. You’ve felt it. Otherwise, you would not be reading this blog, right? People with impostor syndrome are driven to perform, people pleasers, and perfectionists. And they live in a constant state of fear all. the. time!
Pop Psychology has given us a lot of input on overcoming impostor syndrome, and it goes something like this:
Overcoming through achieving:
According to one South African celeb, your ability to banish impostor syndrome is directly related to your ability to achieve success. According to her, what you need is to achieve and perform your way out of that crippling self-doubt.
Convince them. Or is it you?
She continues to advise that impostor syndrome can be overcome simply by proving other people wrong. Because apparently either “they” (I don’t know who they are but I think from this article it’s men?) are trying to snuff out your light, or you are “afraid of being great”. So in other words problem is either you, or them, or maybe both? But either way, prove them wrong.
Rehearse your past achievements to boost your confidence:
Another well-known author who has sadly become popular among believers despite her wonky self-help theology and anti-gospel teachings, you need to remind yourself what you have already accomplished and convince yourself that you can do anything you set your mind to. Write a letter to yourself, from yourself, to boost confidence. Not kidding. This is the actual advice.
Have faith in yourself:
She goes on to say that all the knowledge and the truth you need is already in you. Her advice highlights what, at the core, makes the self-help gospel bogus: That you can find the answers to what is wrong with you, in you. That you can be the problem and the solution, at the same time. Apparently, you don’t need any other kind of faith other than faith in yourself. But here is what is diabolical about this advice: Asking me to have faith in myself when a lack of faith in myself and my ability is exactly the reason I have impostor syndrome makes no sense. It sounds very Nike-ad-slogan-y, but it doesn’t actually change anything.
Most of what I’ve read about impostor syndrome has been about as fulfilling as eating donuts for breakfast. It offers an impressive rush of sugar that tastes (sounds) good, but does not deliver enough for a race run well.
If my succeeding is the only thing that will prove that I am not an impostor, then surely failing will prove that I am one? If the list of victories is supposed to bolster me, then what am I supposed to do with the list of failures and losses, which are unavoidable? How am I supposed to look at them (and myself) if all of my wellbeing balances on the precipice of my successes? Is it any wonder people with Impostor Syndrome never try new things, because we are so desperately dependent on successes to keep proving us wrong about ourselves that the thought of failing at something paralyzes us so we would rather not even try!
Overcoming impostor syndrome by proving ourselves to others puts the control of how we see ourselves squarely in their hands. Our boss, our colleagues, that group of moms that hang out in the carpark at school. When my whole aim is to prove myself to others, my work, my effort, my excellence all becomes fueled by what other people think. But the opinion of another is an uncontrollable, fickle, changeable thing that can never satisfy the soul-deep craving for acceptance we all carry.
What if it’s not our impostor syndrome that drives us to crave acceptance from others and from our achievements. What if our yearning for outside affirmation and acceptance is actually at the core of the issue and impostor syndrome is only it’s manifestation? What if we keep getting the wrong prescription because we keep making the wrong diagnoses about what is at the core of our condition?
The core issue is not that we feel like a fraud, it’s that we don’t feel accepted and we are looking for that acceptance in the wrong place. All of our work and effort becomes about cultivating an image and manipulating acceptance because the fact is that we are deeply and intimately dependant on it.
The core issue is not that we don’t have enough confidence, it’s that we are hoping to gain confidence from our competence. And don’t get me wrong, we should always strive for competence and excellence in whatever we do, but if we are doing that in order to just feel ok with ourselves our striving is born of wrong motivation. Not from faithfulness with our talents and gifts, but from a desire to construct for ourselves indestructible confidence. And because we are human, because we will make mistakes, because we don’t know everything, some days our competence will fall short and then our confidence will fail, again.
The core issue is not that we are not able, the core issue is that we would rather rely on our ability over God’s. Because self-reliance is easier than faith, and control is easier than surrender. Popular advice on impostor syndrome puts us in a position where we need to boast in our strengths to have an identity when Paul says he boasts in his weakness in order to create space for God’s power (2 Cor 12 v 19). Why do you think Paul said that he counted every single accomplishment he had as a loss (Phil 3 v 4-7)? Because he knew that rehearsing our list of accomplishments as Rachel Hollis encourages us to do, will keep us from understanding where true worth is found.
The core issue is not that we don’t belong, the core issue is that we have mistaken belonging for beloved-ness and given the determining power to decide on both to other people or worse yet, to our ourselves.
Imposter syndrome is a lie relating to our truest source of acceptance. Read that again.
As a Christian suffering with impostor syndrome, here is the question that I have had to face as I started understanding what was at the core of this struggle:
Am I truly convinced by Christ? Because at the heart of impostor syndrome lies my lukewarm conviction regarding the soul-deep acceptance I actually already have in Him.
The truth is that we parade out our trite lipservice-level grasp of the gospel right next the claims of the self-help gospel that we are enough (but at the same time we need to hustle harder) and that we should not worry about what others think (but on the other hand unless others don’t confirm that I am not a fraud I will continue to believe I am one). We live life with a bit of Jesus sauce over it – saying that Jesus is enough but spending our lives trying to prove that we are. These things cannot all be true at the same time. Is it any wonder we make no headway with our overcoming impostor syndrome?
Until we get real about what we really believe about what Jesus has done for us and what that means for every part of our lives, we will never overcome impostor syndrome. The self-help gospel has found in us the fertile soil of people who are always hoping that some person, thing, some system of success, some event or fixed future point will finally settle in us the age-old question of our acceptance and worth, will finally represent to us that point of arrival where striving seizes.
“But as long as you are waiting for the mysterious moment you will go on running helter-skelter, always anxious and restless, always lustful and angry, never fully satisfied. You know that this is the compulsiveness that keeps us going and busy, but at the same time makes us wonder whether we are getting anywhere in the long run? This is the way to spiritual exhaustion and burnout. This is the way to spiritual death.Well, you and I don’t have to kill ourselves. We are the beloved. That is the truth of our lives. “
(Henri J. M Nouwen – Life of the Beloved)
Our beloved-ness is the message of the gospel. Christ’s declaration through His death and resurrection is that we are loved perfectly and it is out of that truth that we are called to live, work, act. Are you convinced of this? Are you convinced of it daily?
“The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope” (Timothy Keller)
There is a reservoir of love at the center of our lives, streaming out of the One who calls us out of the darkness of putting our hope in other people and our achievements, into the light of a life lived as one loved perfectly and accepted fully – not because we earned it but because He paid for it, and that was enough.
Why we don’t prioritize time with God and what we can do about it.
I detest blogs that sound like they want to inform me about something that would be to my benefit, but then all they do is make me feel guilty… like I fall short in some way…make me feel like there is yet another thing that I should be doing that I’m just not getting to. That’s why I often avoid parenting books (don’t we already have enough mommy guilt!) and why the one I wrote was written specifically NOT to make you feel that way, because the minute you become a parent, you become instantly and regularly familiar with all the ways you fall short, am I right? So let me assure you, this blog is not like that
Friends share the good news, the great recipes, the tidbit about that child friendly restaurant or that cheap travel deal, right? When you care about someone you want to be generous with the very best information. And that is why I wrote this blog. Not because I want to add something to your list that you already know you should be doing (you know, like finally cleaning out the garage) but just can’t get to, but because spending time in God’s word is one of the most fascinating, nourishing and deeply impactful activities I’ve ever engaged in, and I want that for you!
Here are some of the reasons I think we don’t spend time with God:
We are Saturated
I have 2 teenage boys in my house. They are never not hungry! When you are a mom of boys you are only ever busy with 3 things: Making meals, planning meals or shopping for meals. Ask anyone! My boys approach the dinner table with enthusiasm, because they are, in their words, “starving”. One of the reasons we do not prioritize time in God’s word is because we are not starving. We are saturated. We have many teachers regurgitating for us pre digested morsels. A verse of the day here, a pretty Instagram quote there, a page a day devotional or a 15 minute podcast while driving. What we are choosing to consume takes very little effort from our side, but also little discernment. Kind of like eating processed foods instead of a from-scratch-made-with-love meal. You would not keep yourself or your family fed on processed fast foods indefinitely. But many of us keep going on that kind of spirit diet. And when you are full of candy floss and cupcakes, do you know what you don’t feel like eating? Real food. And that works fine, until things get hectic. Until a trial, a race, a war erupts in our lives.
We have forgotten that we are in a race so we don’t eat like athletes. We have forgotten that we are in a war so we don’t fill up or dress up like soldiers.
And then, when it comes time for perseverance, when it comes time for testing of our faith, mostly through suffering and trial, but also through temptation, that the bible warns us is an inevitability, our tanks are empty, we’ve long ago used up the low GI fuel supplied to us by our light crudité style snacking.
Jesus wants to be our sustenance in the time of uncertainty, trial and difficulty.
He says that in John 6 v 35. He himself was in the wilderness and what sustained Him is the thing that will also sustain us. God’s word (Matt 4 v 4). God doesn’t want to give us certainty instead of our uncertainty, he wants to give us a certain grip on him. And He does that faithfully when we prioritise His word.
The Christian life thrives with the bible, just like the body thrives with good nourishment, exercise and hydration. Jesus said I am the bread of life, He said “come to me for living water”, so when we come to the word of God we are attending to the health of our soul and our spirit, we are feeding our greatest and truest hunger.
We are Intimidated
I often hear people say that they wish to hear from God. That they hope to know His will. Then I always ask them what they read that morning. Because to this day, the primary way God speaks is through His Word. And you don’t need a theology degree to hear Him. Jesus himself said that His revelation is more often hidden from the wise and revealed to the childlike and simple (Matt 11 v 15). We read a lot of things every day, without the need of translation, but for some reason when we come to God’s word our expectation of ourselves is usually too high and our expectation of God is usually too low. He promises us in His word when we draw near to Him He will draw near to us (James 4 v 8). James also tells us that when we ask for wisdom He will give it to us without reviling us (James 1 v 5 – 6) if we ask in faith. Faith is asking knowing that God wants to give us wisdom, not asking hoping that He will but fearing that maybe, just maybe, He doesn’t really want to or He won’t, which is often the attitude with which we come to the word of God. Is it any wonder we treat God’s word as something we have to “fit in”? We treat it like a chore because we think we have to work on it, we do not come with the expectation that it will work on us, which is what the Word was made to do! God himself watches over it to ensure that it will accomplish what He pleases (Is 55 v 11). You don’t have to worry about that. But what you do have to worry about is what kind of expectation you have as you approach your time in God’s word.
Often our problem is that we have forgotten that reading God’s word is an act of love not an action on a to do list, that our time with God is a relationship to build not a box to tick, that it is the daily momentum we need to move towards meaning and maturity.
We have underestimated our true state
When I feel lukewarm towards spending time with God, I always remind myself of the story in Luke 7 of the sinful woman who came to kiss Jesus’ feet and anointed Him with oil. And Jesus said those who have been forgiven much love much. The reason we don’t prioritise time with God is because we forget that we have a deep need. That, our deep need, much more than an obligation or a “should”, must be our “reason why”. Our love wanes and our devotion lapses because we lose sight of who we really are and what we really need. We are so distracted and entertained that we forget about our own spiritual state. We are so over saturated with candy floss Christianity that we forget how much we need God’s grace, God’s involvement, God’s direction in our daily lives. When we become disconnected and distracted from the essence of the gospel in our lives we quickly and easily start underestimating our need for God, because the gospel remains compelling only to someone aware of the truth of their spiritual state.
Many of us live lukewarm lives, no different from the world around us because we do not consistently connect ourselves with the transformative and victorious, which is only found in God’s Word. And just like time in God’s word will manifest as faith, joy, hope, growth, maturity, direction, focus and blessing in our lives, so lack of time in God’s word will also manifest in different ways:
Persistent struggles with fear, worry and anxiety, and having your inner peace and joy dependent on your circumstances;
Not being able to discern the truth and being ensnared by deceptive teaching and heresy which places you outside of the will of God and the blessings of righteousness;
Lack of direction, which not only has personal consequences, but it also means you are ill-equipped to equip your children for a hard and difficult world;
Lack of fruit and thriving;
Lack of victory over areas of stubborn sin;
Lack of meaning, leading us to idolatry as we try to create meaning for ourselves;
Defenseless against spiritual attacks without the Sword of the Word;
An inability to respond when people question your faith, which diminishes your witness and influence for the Kingdom.
These are just some of what we suffer when our lives are devoid of connection with God via His word and prayer. If your faith feels powerless and empty, consider how you view the Bible, which is your primary exposure to the truth
GK Chesterton said “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried.” And it’s true. I think we live in a time where we have thought because we have Bibles and we say we love them we have truly seen what the Word can do in people, in us. But I don’t think we have.
The Bible only becomes a sword when we become it’s soldiers. The Bible only becomes a kiln when we become it’s clay, the Word only becomes our standard when we become it’s students.
If this is something you desire for yourself, for your family and for your life, why not sign up for my 5 day Biblestudy Course, called DWELL, aimed at equipping you with the basic steps and tools to truly engage with the Word of God. Sign up here – it’s free!
Sending your kid off to “big school” is hard, even if it wasn’t during a pandemic! If you have a new Gr1 in your home this is a uniquely challenging year, and I get it. I was the mom in the oversized sunnies weeping haplessly in the car on the way home on that first day. Like trying to hold water in a cup made of toiletpaper. That was me trying to hold back tears on my eldest’ first day of school. He’s 14 now and won’t read this so I am not embarrassed to say it (or to post a picture of just how adorable he was mind you!).
As I recently mentioned over on www.wifemomtravel.com, being a boy mom is like someone breaking up with you very very slowly. But regardless of whether you are sending your boy or girl off to school, that walk away from the school gate feels like a tear in the fabric of your heart, here are 10 things I learned that I hope will help you through that first year (and all the ones to follow!)
Remember that anxiety is contagious. Kids are like dogs in that way, it’s like they just know when there is fear, panic or anxiety around. What has really helped me is to shroud this day, this event, and me and my child in it, in prayer. Need help with this? 5 Ways to pray for your child in the new school year
Expect more from God and less from yourself. Remember, parenting will test the fiber of your faith. Your biggest battles will not and should not be fought in the principal’s office or at the parent/teacher meeting, but on your knees before the Lord. That is where you will make the most progress and see the greatest results in the life of your child.
And speaking of expectations, right now, going in, set your hope in the right place. Especially among some spheres of our society, the school convo is a big one. But the majority of our countrymen do not have a choice about where their kids go to school. This one thing I know for sure: My child’s future is not in the hands of a school – regardless of how fancy, a principle – regardless of how well regarded, a set of strategically executed moves – regardless of how well reasoned. It is in God’s hands. We should not rely on things, people, countries, institutions or relationships to deliver in the lives of our children what only God can deliver – a secure future and an eternal destiny.
You cannot control what is about to happen. But I couldn’t say it better than Lysa Terkeurst when she said: “One of the best things you could do as a mom is recognize that God is good at being God.”
Get clever with the time in the car. Whether it’s a 10 minute trip or whether you have to get up early to trek across the city, the opportunity of having your child as your captive audience for that time is precious. Use it wisely. My book, the mommy diaries, evolved out of conversations I had with my kids in the car. Conversations about winning, losing, about things that happened to them at school, among their friends. on the news, and it’s a great tool to help you transfer your values so you can raise kids with courage and character, simply by using their everyday experiences and your everyday opportunities.
Be prepared. You are inevitably going to arrive at school when it’s raining. Or wish you had change for the tuck-shop cause he forgot his lunch on the counter. Again. Or you’re going to arrive at 7 and it will already be scorching and no one thought to pack sunscreen. Here is what I keep in the car for the 433 hours a year I spend between home and school . Also be prepared with some clever questions so you can draw out more than a “fine”/ “nothing” to your “How was your day?”/ “What did you learn?” questions on the trip home after school. Be sure to check out my stories on Instagram this week OR check the Mom of Boys highlight on my profile here!
Get involved at school. And no, I don’t mean be one of those parents who are forever complaining about things. Go ask anyone, it’s always the parents who complain the most who do the least! Don’t be that mom! Research reveals that there is a direct link between your involvement at your child’s school and your child’s performance. No matter their income or background, kids with involved parents are more likely to have higher marks in class, attend school regularly, have better social skills, show improved behavior, and adapt well to school. And your involvement will not just bless your child. If you are in a racially and economically diverse school, your involvement will bless the kids whose parents are not able to be involved, bless the teachers and the school as a whole.
Embrace this transition in your child’s life as an opportunity to foster independence. For example prepping/ packing their own schoolbag/ using a planner/ diary, setting up a study space or desk and using an alarm clock in the mornings. Why not make a list of skills you want your child to learn by the end of the first school year and put it on the fridge so you can track his/ her progress together.
Have the big discussions early. I heard Hettie Brits speak about it this way once. When we are intentional about discussing certain things with our kids, for example sex and other tricky things, it’s like we open a file in the filing cabinet that is their brains. If we open the file first, giving them God’s truth about that topic first, every other thing they hear and see into the future needs to line up with that truth. But if we lack the courage or intentionality to have that discussion with them, someone else might open the file and place information in it that does not agree with your values or world view. Do not underestimate the spirit and insight of your child, have the hard talks. And do not underestimate what of the world your child will be encountering in the first year of school. It is both your job and your calling to prepare him/ her.
Be nice to the teachers. Not because you are trying to get into anyone’s good graces, but because, well, they deserve it! Teachers have a tough job at the best of times, and the last year has taken a toll on our teachers as they had to adapt to changing conditions, as they had to continue to try to serve our kids under challenging circumstances, as they risked their health to be with our kids and as some of them unfairly bore the brunt of many parents’ unwillingness to continue to pay school fees. We can honor teachers by not complaining about them in front of our kids, and we can serve them by recognizing the challenges of their job, doing something kind for them and by staying involved with our own child’s educational development. Check out this great gift idea for the beginning of term!
You are going to be tempted to worry about a lot of things. You are going to find yourself outside the school gate with other worried moms, with concern over this teacher/ that news bulletin/ the fact that your kid keeps losing his jersey gathering like a storm in your heart. Breath, remember Who is really in charge of it all, and then parent like that’s true.
What word would you use to describe your faith in this season? In our online prayer meeting at church a few weeks ago (yes, cause that’s a thing now), a live poll indicated that more than 70% of people felt that their faith had grown during lockdown! Yay for them, but if I am honest I know that I have struggled to stay within that 70%. I wanted to. But it felt like a fight. A fight for faith. A fight I refuse to walk away from because I know what a life apart from Christ is like and to me that is just not an option. But that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been hard. Most of the time I felt like I was faltering. To be fierce means to show heartfelt and passionate intensity. I want to be a fierce woman of faith, who intently and intensely displays faith.
But what does the fight for fierce faith look like in this season? I don’t know about you but it feels like there are blows coming at me from all sorts of directions! How can we keep choosing the walk of faith when the journey is this hard? Faith is more than a spiritual position. Sometimes, no often, it’s also a response. And a response is always a choice! Job gave us that example, so did many others in the Bible. So how do we keep choosing fierce faith when we feel like we’re faltering?
We choose fierce faith when we stay fully convinced of God’s intention to perform what He promised:
If anyone needed ferocious faith it was Abraham and Sarah! Am I right? I mean talk about unlikely people in the kind of circumstances that made what they hope for flat out impossible nevermind what your God promised! But even as the years ticked by and the promise remained just a highlighted set of verses in his bible, Abraham remained fully convinced (Rom 4 v 21) that God was able to perform what He had promised. How did he remain convinced? In him and Sarah’s waiting, they continued to “judge God faithful” (Rom 11 v 11) They fixed their eyes not on the impossibility of their situation, not even on the set of highlighted verses of promise, but on the intention of God to do what He said ((Is 14 v 24). They assessed His track record and became fully convinced that yes, He is able, and in His time also ready to perform His word (Jer 1 v 12).
We choose fierce faith when we acknowledge God’s ability in the face of impossible circumstances:
If Abraham was taking our Corona Poll at Rosebank Union Church, he would have been firmly in the 70%, because rather than growing weak, his faith in God grew stronger while he waited. We read in Rom 4 v 20 that Abraham did not allow himself to waver through unbelief – he did not falter – which just blows my mind by the way! And through the act of simply holding on, his faith was strengthened. Wow, right?
Faith is not as some people might think, a denial of impossible circumstances. It’s not tattooing “with God all things are possible” on your arm and not watching the news so you are more able to maintain a “positive attitude”. Yes, I’m using inverted commas. And yes, with all the snark you’ve come to expect from yours truly. That is not faith. Faith is not a denial of the problem, it’s believing God’s word in the face of the problem. Biblical faith does not deny the problem or circumstances but holds fast that God remains greater than the problem or the circumstances. Is that the God you know? Because it’s hard to trust someone you don’t know, as I discovered in my fight for hope through the uncertainty Coronavirus.
We choose fierce faith when we choose to believe God has the final word over our circumstances:
Not our words. Not our feelings. God’s final word is yes! Because faith is taking God at His word, not taking our feelings so seriously that we can’t see past them.
We choose fierce faith when we choose what we know over what we feel:
Here is the thing that I am realizing. Pastor Dave one of our pastor’s said on Sunday during online church (cause yeah, that’s a thing now too) that our faith in suffering is really our biggest testimony. We are all, right now, becoming what we declare. How scary is that? Right now, all over the world, believers are wrestling, and it’s because our doctrine, what we truly believe about God and what we believe about the world in relation to God is never more apparent than when we are in crisis.
The fact is that our doctrine is our everyday companion, it is coming out of our mouths and our fingertips, rolling around in our thoughts and manifesting itself in our homes all the time, maybe without us even being conscious of it. What we believe about God and the world is evident in how we work, how we entertain ourselves (jip, in the TV series we pick!), how we speak and eat, and yes, in how we suffer and struggle. One of the reasons I wrote The Mommy Diaries is because of this fact, that our fundamental beliefs are not some random mental state we engage from time to time, but it actually shows itself in every action and situation. And that it’s ultimately our children’s beliefs that drive their behaviors, as is the case with us, whether we like it or not. So addressing the beliefs rather than the behaviors if you’re a parent, is critical.
All of my life is the outworking of my beliefs. If so many of us are experiencing a crisis of faith, what we should be doing is working back from that intense worry, anxiety, need for escape, emotional low to the core belief that drives it and measuring that against the doctrine we profess to subscribe to so it can reveal itself as either true, or a lie. So as we go through whatever we’re going through, I hope what we are asking ourselves more is: what do I believe – i.e what is my doctrine? About God…the world…all of this. And hopefully what we are listening to a bit less is: How do I feel? Faith is not a feeling.
Jesus calls us to do the “work of believing” (John 6 v 29). That work is this: consistently lining up your convictions and your action. And for that work to be aligned, correct, built on truth, not a house that will falter and fall when shaken, Jesus should be the plum-line, the ultimate reference point. That’s what a cornerstone is!
So how can I have this kind of faith? Paul said he could suffer while remaining full of faith because he knew WHOM he had believed and was persuaded beyond any doubt in His ability (2 Tim 1 v 12). The focus of his faith was more than just what he believed, it was in knowing WHOM he had believed. His faith was about more than merely holding on to a set of promises, it was about holding on to the Person behind the promises, so that even if the promises are not fulfilled, then he would remain convinced that even that would be, MUST be, for his good because of the character of Whom he believed, the one who works ALL for our good (Rom 8 v 28), even something that looks like a broken promise or disappointment. Fierce faith rests IN Him (1 Cor 2 v 5), abides in Him (John 15 v 4, 7) and cannot be separated from the loving personhood of God in the Lord Jesus (Rom 8 v 38, 39)
Choosing faith may not eliminate our present pain or difficulty. It probably won’t even stop the many questions we still have. It will not “explain away” our present circumstances. But it will remind us of Who is really in control and produce in us endurance (James 1 v 2 – 5), and yield in us even greater fruit (Heb 12 v 11). I know I want that, even if it’s hard!
This is all I’ve got. I know how hard it is right now. Remember I am praying for you.
Teaching kids about prayer in times of uncertainty
In this year we have faced trauma at school, family members threatened by a dire drought, and now, Covid 19, it’s effects reaching into every corner of everything we do, have, own, trust in. Never before has it been more important to be able to pray. And I was confronted through all of this with this question: Do my kids really know how to pray? Do they know why we pray? Do they truly have access to the power of prayer in times of loss, uncertainty, worry, fear and trial, or do they just know how to pray before they eat or before they sleep?
So here is what I told my kids about prayer:
We should pray because it’s a conversation with God:
Imagine living in your house with your parents and your siblings, and never talking to them. Imagine going to school and flat out ignoring your friends. That would be so weird. It would make you feel awkward and it would make your friends and family feel awkward too. Talking is one of the things we do to maintain, foster and build relationships. And prayer is talking. With God. That is why prayer must be honest, just like any conversation between you and someone you love whom you know loves you back. Just like when you talk to that person, prayer doesn’t have to be full of fancy words, not flowery or over the top. Prayer is a conversation, not a sermon, a monologue or an eisteddfod performance. And just like talking to someone who you know fully accepts and loves you, prayer can change the way you feel, the way you see things and even the way you act. And that is why prayer must go both ways and include talking AND listening, just like any conversation. Otherwise, you are just making a speech. The problem is that we are all better talkers than listeners for the most part, and that is true when we are around people we can see and hear! So listening to God, whom we can’t see and whose voice is not audible, is even harder. But it’s not impossible, and prayer can be a time of talking and listening if we do exactly what we would do if we had a friend we wanted to listen to, which is to intentionally keep quiet.
Set aside the time and create an opportunity for God to speak to you. Yes, you can pray any time and anywhere, but setting aside disciplined prayer time where you are not just venting to God means you are creating space for Him to speak to you.
We should pray because it’s a command from God:
And just like all other types of commands, God insists on them because he knows they are good for us. God through prayer wants us to keep the channel of communication open between us, because He knows that without communication, relationships don’t survive and thrive. And if prayer is a command, that means when we pray we are being obedient, right? And before you think obedience is boring, think about it this way: Another word for obedience is trust. So every time we obey God, we are also trusting Him, and when we trust someone, we share our hearts with them, everything about our lives, the good and the bad. And that is what prayer is, and act of obedience and an act of trust. And that is why prayer is so powerful
We should pray because Jesus did it:
Which shows us that it must be a very important thing. And when we start copying Jesus, the more we will become like him. And the great thing is that Jesus, in the way He himself prayed with and for His disciples, shows us exactly how we should pray
Faithfully (Rom 12 v 12)
Even for our enemies (Matt 5 v 44)
In watchfulness about what we notice and gratitude for what we have (Col 4 v 2)
With the help of the Holy Spirit (Eph 6 v 18)
We should pray because prayer is the most important part of the thankfulness God requires of us. And also because God gives His grace and Holy Spirit only to those who pray continually and groan inwardly, asking God for these gifts and thanking Him for them.
We should pray because it’s powerful and releases God’s power into our lives and the lives of others:
The Bible tells us that the prayer of the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective (James 5 v 16), and thanks to Jesus dying for us, we all are “righteous” because we have Jesus’s righteousness. God uses prayer in the lives of us and of others because His desire is always for a relationship, to partner with us in bringing about His will on earth.
The Bible we read about many instances where the power of prayer overcame enemies (Ps 6 v 9 – 10), brought about healing (James 5 v 14 – 15), conquered death(2 Kings 4 v 3 – 36) and defeated the power of the demons (Mark 9 v 29). God uses prayer to bring healing and restoration, to give us wisdom and to open our eyes. It is a way to draw on the infinite resource of power that is the God of the universe!
Note to parents:
Prayer is a posture, it’s a conversation, it’s correcting and it’s a contribution to the work of the Kingdom, and in The Mommy Diaries I expound on how to journey with our kids on this and also how to teach them to pray. All orders of The Mommy Diaries during lockdown will come with an amazing free resource by Rev Leigh Robinson called “A solid foundation: Biblical Truths our children must know by heart before the age of 12”. Perfect for discipling your kids and using all the time at home to sow eternal seeds!
For blog subscribers, there is also a handy infographic with an easy rhyme that teaches kids about praying anytime about anything, some quick crib notes to help you answer those tough questions on prayer (if God knows everything why should we pray?) and how to use the ACTS acronym to teach your kids how to pray.
The sobering news about having kids is in the realization that you are not as in control as you thought you were. And few seasons in life attune us to this reality like sending our kid off to school. There our child encounters a thousand situations, relations, temptations that we will not even be present for, won’t even know about, cannot choose or control. In that, prayer is not just a comfort but a call. It is the admission, the submission, that there are things our kids need that we can’t provide, situations they will be in we can’t control and that there is a God who is God over it all. How humbling to be a parent!
But has this ever happened to you: You sit down to pray and you have nothing to say? By your conviction of the power and importance of prayer you come to pray for your children only to find you have dull words, mundane requests and circumstantial insights that don’t make a dent in the eternal, true needs of your child and do not spiritually connect you to God’s vision for them. I have felt like this many times. In these moments I have found God’s word to be a great tool to direct my prayers to be more powerful and effective.
I have written a lot about expectation, and that we, especially as moms, often have a very high expectation of ourselves and a low expectation of God. Moms are the “do-ers” in the lives of their children, and we often mistakenly get into a mode of “if I don’t it won’t” when it comes to parenting by faith. I know, I’ve been there. But what if we placed all our expectations on the promises of God instead of our own abilities in the life of our kids?
“If you believe in prayer at all, expect God to hear you. If you do not expect, you will not have. God will not hear you unless you believe He will hear you; but if you believe He will, He will be as good as your faith.”
Luke 18 v 1- 8 must’ve been written especially for the parents of teens! It’s the parable about the persistent widow. When prayer becomes a practice, it encourages persistence that actually guards our hearts against discouragement. And let’s face it, parenting can be discouraging at times. An attitude of persistence &perseverance in prayer springs from a heart that acknowledges that God’s love for us is a fact that exists above and often despite what we see in our circumstances. That’s faith. Our steadfastness in praying for our children declares that we know God loves them. Set an alarm of your phone if you want to, pick a day of the week, find a way to make persistent prayer a habit.
“The one concern of the devil is to keep Christians from praying. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, and prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but trembles when we pray.”
Some of the most touching and beautiful prayers in the Bible where written by Paul, but here’s one thing I’ve noticed. In all his prayers for those he loved, he never requested a change in their circumstances. Now as parents we all want the same things for our kids, for them to be well adjusted, you know, not sociopaths. For them to be kind, happy and hardworking. But more than that I want them to encounter Christ in a real and relevant way, follow him with passion and perseverance, see the world through the eyes of His word so they can face their personal challenges and the challenges of their day with courage and character. That is why I wrote The Mommy Diaries. And that is why when I pray for my kids my prayers focus on these areas:
And their future.
By subscribing to the blog today, you will receive a free printable one week prayer calendar along with a template to make your own. Print it out, pop it on the fridge or in your journal or planner. It focuses on praying God’s word over these areas of your children’s lives!
I keep what I call a “Warrior woman’s book of prayers” – I know, what an ambitious name! It’s actually just a little ring bound notebook. But in it I have written down scriptures and prayers for all of my loved ones, including my kids, my family members, my friends. And as I sit down to pray for them, my heart and my prayers are guided by God’s word and that way I know they are guided by His will. I do it this way most of the time not because I’m such a clever excellent Christian, but actually because of the opposite. I am a doubtful, worrying, wondering, perpetually distracted ants-in-my-pants Christian with a desperate desire to be a faithful prayer. This way really helps me.
And let me tell you the truth, I have seen more accomplished in the lives of my loved ones through prayer than I have ever seen accomplished through my own efforts, cleverness or ability to turn situations around.
Why do I use God’s Word to help me pray?
So much of what is written in the bible match our circumstances. It gives us words when we don’t have any. Even Jesus used the Word to pray – for example when he prayed from Psalm 22 in Matt 27 and Mark 15.
It helps me focus. Often I find my worries, anxieties, my concerns and my “lists” become the highlights of my prayer time with God. They take up so much space that aligning with His will in prayer, reordering my priorities and desires to line up with scripture, praising and worshipping Him get crowded. Praying God’s word is an intentional way of making those things a more weighty part of my conversations with God.
It helps me pray with confidence – especially in situations where I don’t know what to pray. It contains God’s will, reveals his character, explicitly lays out His promises.
It instructs my heart – actually praying through the Word changes the desires of my heart as His Spirit ministers to my spirit.
It helps me fight earthly battles with heavenly weapons. God calls us to pull down strongholds (2 Cor 10 v 3 – 5) and for that, we need a spiritual arsenal. That is what the Bible is.
Praying God’s word with our kids, lays for them a foundation of understanding about what truly matters in life. God’s word is applicable to every area of challenge our kids face, from bullies, to worries, to friendships and everything in between. In the next blog I will share some insights from my book about how to talk to your kids about prayer and teach them how to pray.
Most recently we have prayed persistently for rain in the Eastern and Northern Cape. It showed my kids not only that God cares about the everyday challenges we face and is deeply invested in the lives of those He loves, but after a time, it showed them how powerful prayer can be and how amazing it is to see your prayers answered. Thank you Lord for the rain in those drought-stricken areas!
Be encouraged mom, your prayers are heard by God himself (Psalm 4 v 3), and your words of supplication move the heart of the King of the Universe (Matt 21 v 22) . Prayer connects you to the strength of God – and which mom could not use more of that! And prayer prepares us to be met by his blessing (Matt 7 v 11)
Do you need help explaining prayer to your child and teaching him/ her about it without all the “christianeze”? Check out the chapter on prayer in The Mommy Diaries – ideal for kids between age 7 and 15!
I can’t wait to talk to my sons about girls, sex, dating – said no mom ever! I know, I get it. But I once heard a parenting expert explain your child’s understanding of these type of topics as files being opened in the filing cabinet of the brain. The file will be opened, named and will start containing information gleaned from what they hear, see and their environment. By being intentional about these awkward topics, we are in essence taking the initiative to “open the file”, thereby having a chance to input shaping information that is in line with our worldview, convictions, and morality. Every other piece of information that then comes into the “file” get’s tested against the truth that we put in first. Should we remove our intention we give way to the alternative, a view on women, dating, sex, shaped by the barrage of messaging, content and images that the world is consistently producing and offering up.
I didn’t want to write this. Newsflash: Being a boy mom is not dissimilar to being a girl dad. You experience the same fierce protective streak and compulsion to grab a shotgun. However gracious and “live and let live” you may appear you still secretly harbor the conviction that no one will ever be good enough for your offspring. Even if he is currently obsessed with slouchy pants and continues to be amused by his own farts.
So you can imagine my reticence when The Elder returned from Holiday Club with a hand full of notes secretly passed (some things never change). He had an expression somewhere between bemused and confused on his face as he read me a note from one girl who asked to wear his beanie, another his jacket. When I asked “what do you think about that son?” and he said “I guess they like my clothes?” Ummm, I realized I had some work to do in helping him work out how he should respond. Because how he respond doesn’t just affect him, but as he is being shaped by this interaction so are the girls he is interacting with, all of them at an age that is forming the neural pathways and emotional understanding of those interactions for years to come. Yes, we have ticked the boxes on the body and sex conversations. But this blog is about the fuzzy stuff. The stuff I want him to keep in mind as my son, as someones’ future boyfriend, as someone’s future husband. So here is what I told The Elder about girls…so far….
Be honourable – Every night before my boys go to sleep I say to each of them: “You are my treasure”. And so I have told The Elder that he must remember that when he is interacting with a girl, she is also someone’s treasure too, her mom’s, her dad’s, and God’s. And all treasure must be seen as precious and must be handled with care. Every person we encounter is an image bearer.
Be kind – “respond to girls in a way that protects them and protects you”. My son is 11, an age where possibly there is a disconnect between the feelings he has and his ability to express them. So arming him with “scripts” that enables confident responses that are also kind is how we have chosen to help him. For example: “ I am too young to have a romantic relationship, but I would enjoy getting to know you as a friend. “ or “I am too young to have a girlfriend, but I know how to be a good friend so let’s do that instead.”
Be a gentleman – Even as a 40-year-old woman, I can still recall valentines day slights, offhand comments that I shouldn’t have heard, boys being insensitive boys, all of these things I remember from being an insecure pre-teen girl. So if I am going to be the mom of a pre-teen boy, maybe I can spare some girl having similar, shaping, sore memories. My boys don’t have sisters, but they have 3 girl cousins, and a slew of friends who are like family, so when I tell them to treat every girl like she is Lila, Isabel, Jua, Hannah, Sophia or Ava, Pia or Sienna, they get it (please Lord Jesus, I hope they get it!). I take pains to help them make sure the little girls in the class that the boys know might not get anything for Valentine’s day gets something, albeit anonymously. I (try) to keep sexist joking and name calling out of the house and discourage them (strongly) from participating in it at school.
In a world of man-bashing (mostly rightly so) we as boy moms should try to encourage positive masculinity and chivalrous behaviour that has nothing to do with long-dead ideas about men and women, but has everything to do with very much alive #everybodyalways #kindnessalways thinking and the golden rule of putting others first that helps our boys to shine a light in the world.
Be careful – puberty and its company of feelings and hormones are hard to manage. And in the right (and by that I mean the wrong) situation, it can be like a car rolling down a hill, i. e hard to stop. Encountering attraction and trying to understand it is tricky for boys, so sound advise for this life stage is to stay in a group. “Don’t put yourself in a compromising position!” For now we steer clear of concepts like “dating” or “going out” until a more appropriate age.
Be aware – “Not only are you as a boy going to be dealing with your own growing awareness of the opposite sex, but you will also be dealing with girls who are going through the same thing.” In every person, the outside is most often a reflection of what is going on on the inside. So I told my son than when he encounters a girl who seems like she is overly desperate for male attention (albeit via what she wears or how she acts), give her a wide birth and keep a careful but kind distance. There are possibly things going on in her heart/life that you can’t help her with and that your attention is not the answer to.
Yes, the pre-teen and adolescent path is a messy meander of navigating confusing, overwhelming thoughts and feelings. However unpopular it might be, that’s where we as parents come in.
Make peace with the fact that you are going to be the good guy in your movie and the weird guy in theirs (there will be allot of “Awww Mom ! Gross ! I don’t want to talk about this with you!”), and launch as deeply as you can and as quickly as you can into the “girls” conversation. Yes, if you are a boy mom, leave the sex convo to the father/ father figure in your boys’ life. But when it comes to the emotive stuff, remember what it was like for you when you were a girl and use that as a jump-off point to help your boy be the kind of boy your 10-13-year-old self would’ve wanted to encounter.
Do you sometimes just feel a bit “at sea” spiritually? We might be calling out to God for a particular answer or wisdom in a situation, but the answer or way forward seems hidden or unclear. We might be in a season of waiting where we desire to experience God’s comfort, but we come up empty. We might be desperate to see God move in our lives but our spiritual vision seems dim, our hearts a bit disconnected. Like a fuzzy spot in our vision, a dirty blemish on the horizon of our faith experience, we just feel like somethings missing.. like we can’t see the full picture…do you know this feeling Momma? It’s like being at the bottom end of the line up in a game of broken telephone.
Last week my morning coffee was interrupted by a whale sighting. “Fetch the binocs” I yelled, and I fumbled with them as I kept my eyes on the exact spot where I had just seen the glorious breach! But as I was peering intently there was a fuzzy bothersome black spot in my eye line. An eyelash? Are these binocs broken? No amount of adjusting that little knobby in the middle (yes, ok, I do not know the names of the parts of a set of binoculars! And if I did I would only confess it to someone with one of those “I brake for birds” stickers on their cars!) brought the precious whale into focus. And just as I decided to make peace with the fact that my vision won’t be clear because I am a binocs idiot, The Elder pointed out (in the tone of voice that you’d expect from an 11-year-old) that one of the lenses still had the lens cap on it. #facepalm
Suddenly it all made sense, the black fuzzy dot was gone, and I feasted on an amazing display of a very playful Southern Right Whale! I felt invigorated, in awe, inspired, like I was just let into God’s inner circle. Something I won’t soon forget.
There are a few things that can “cover the lens cap” of our vision, bringing blurriness and fuzzy lines to our journey with Jesus.
Frustration: Sounds like a small thing? It was big enough for Moses to miss his entire calling and promised land! We have God’s peace and we must guard it and guard against frustration that disables our ability to wait on God, hear from God, see God at work as we walk in step with the Spirit. If you’re wondering if you have frustration in your life try to “hear” if you are complaining more than usual and how often you use your hooter in the traffic. Life is frustrating, so are people. But our peace is precious and we must guard it, even at the end of a long day or in rush hour traffic.
Wrong motives: Acts chapter 8 tells the story of Simon, who desired the things of God for his own benefit. Wisdom to be on display, God’s divine hand on his works to gain popularity. Do I desire the things of God for the sake of my own glory or His? Do I ask for wisdom out of my own poverty or for the sake of my own vanity?
Envy, jealousy, comparison: A vicious distraction of our time, that steals our effectiveness, our calling, and our joy. It sets us against others emotionally, unable to rejoice or weep with them, encourage or comfort them, it disrupts unity and community and our inner peace and rhythm as well. I would go as far as to say this: Our propensity for comparison is a “pattern of this world” that we are unwittingly conforming too, thereby disabling our ability to discern (see clearly) the will of God. (Rom 12 v 2). How much more clear perspective would you have on yourself, your path, your journey if you stopped comparing it to the girl next to you?
Fear: There is only place in our lives for a reverential fear of the Lord. But sometimes we fear the future, people’s opinions, failure, suffering, uncertainty and it clouds our perspective. In a sense what you fear becomes your god, instead of God. When we live with a holy fear of the Lord, our path and perspective is clarified (Ps 25 v 12- 13)
Unforgiveness: I know this is a no-brainer, but I also know first hand this is by far the hardest. This is what I preach to myself and to others when it comes to forgiveness: Forgiveness is accepting the apology you will never receive. And if God holds nothing against me thanks to Jesus, why should I hold something against someone else?
Bitterness: Stored up anger, resentment about bygone hurts or unjust treatment, once these take root in our hearts it can parasitically strangle all other growth in our lives, crack our foundation, suffocate the Breath of Life meant to oxygenate our fruit-bearing right out of us. Like with any weed the answer it to definitively and decisively pluck it out. Go back to point (5) Learn to let go. Walk (away) towards clarity.
Proverbs 29 v 18 tells us that when there is no vision, no revelation of God or His word, we can quickly find ourselves on a wrong path or a slippery slope. I heard it said once that dissatisfaction and discouragement are not caused by the absence of things but the absence of vision. With impaired vision, we can easily become distracted by short-term, shallow things and ideas and lose sight of God’s call on our lives and the meaningful and purposeful life He has for us. A clear vision helps us understand the purposes of our trials, so the devil wants nothing more than to keep our “spiritual sight” dim so our faith can be diminished instead of strengthened when trials come.
If one of these spots have found its way onto your life lense, I pray that you will:
Find time to reflect and look inward so that you can again look out outward with a more accurate perspective
That you would both repent (if you need to) and let go (if you need to) so that you can grasp a new revelation of how much God loves you. Fresh grace comes more fully into hands that are empty
May that once again bring the wide horizon of God’s love into clear view.
We pass 7 traffic lights between our house and school, and 7 beggars, 8 if you count the toddler accompanying the woman at the entrance to our local mall. Sadly, in South Africa, this is disturbingly commonplace. And just like you are suddenly more aware of how crooked your handwriting is when the teacher is looking over your shoulder, you are suddenly more aware of how crooked your society is when your kids are in the back of the car. Asking you hard questions.
Stats SA’s poverty report shows that 30 million South Africans live in poverty out of a population of approximately 58 million people. If these numbers alone don’t confront our hearts, then the daily confrontation with the poor among us definitely should.
But how do we teach and model to our kids the right way to interact with the socio-economic needs of our nation? Is it really to just randomly hand out money or food at every street corner? I don’t think so.
“She sets her heart upon a nation and takes it as her own, carrying it within her. She labors there to plant the living vines.” (Prov 31 v 16 TPT)
So here is what I’ve told the boys:
We MUST give, and we must give with joy:
Our privileges and yes, our blessings too, are in our lives for the sake of others, not just for our own sake. We are blessed in order to bless! Our giving is not benevolence for the sake of assuaging our conscience or giving ourselves a (usually public by way of Facebook) pat on the back. According to God’s word, our giving is an act of both obedience (Heb 13 v 16) in response to God’s goodness, but also a joyful opportunity (Rom 12 v 7-8) in response to God’s love.
“God has given us two hands, one to receive with and the other to give with” – Billy Graham.
If we consider where God placed us, and what He placed in our hands, how could we not give? I have written before how I’ve tackled what I call the “burden of privilege” with my boys, so that they can deal rightly, carefully, generously, and intentionally with the privileges that are a part of their lives.
We must be intentional and obedient in our giving:
As believers, our giving takes 2 forms. As citizens of South Africa, both my husband and I honor God by paying our taxes. A portion of our taxes goes towards social grants. More than 17 million South Africans receive social grants, which is our governments’ way of bringing to fruition Section 24 through 29 of our country’s impressive Bill of Rights, which focuses on the socio-economic rights of citizens, including the right to social security. The social grant system is a verifiable, standardized system of care, and the grants available include the child support grant, older person’s grant, disability grant, foster child grant, war veterans grant etc. So already, by merely following the laws of this land, (and God’s command Mark 12v17), we are already taking care of the poor. All people may not be able to make all the choices I have the privilege of making, but in a welfare state, they at least have some protection offered by law.
The second way we respond to the poor is by our tithes and offerings, where we commit our first fruits to our church and it’s various ministries, including it’s outreach to the poor. At my church, as I am sure it is the case at yours, our social outreach is by way of focussed, intentional initiatives that take a long-term, holistic view of caring for the poor in both a physical and a spiritual way.
We must give to help, not to hurt:
According to a study done by Solidariteit, 90% of beggars in the Twane area use the money they obtain exclusively for drugs/ addictive substances. They make an average of R500 a day. The fact is that when we give money to someone on the street, we are often under the wrong impression that this money will go towards really helping, towards actual material needs such as shelter, food or clothing. But for the most part, this is not the case. Even the clothes and food we give gets bartered and sold. And in our thoughtless giving, we seldom realize the damage we do.
In my city women begging with one or 2 kids in tow is also commonplace. Very often, these kids are “on loan” and not even their real children. In the case of these scenarios, the damage we do in our “giving” is actually far worse and far-reaching. At my local mall there is a woman and a child begging on a daily basis. She keeps showing up with the toddler in tow because suburban housewives with their Woolies packets and their pampered guilt continue to happily part with a few bills on the way home from the mall.
They are under the wrong impression that they are making a difference, but they are in fact just keeping things the same, or making them worse.
By giving in that situation not only are we thoughtlessly enabling an adult to (ab)use a child for monetary gain (there’s a name for that you know! It’s slavery), but we are actually funding the long-term neglect and abuse of the child as a means to make money (and yes, there is a name for that too..it’s human trafficking). We are cooperating in depriving that child of his/ her basic rights as underpinned by our constitution to be educated, protected from exploitation and to be safe, keeping that innocent out of school and enslaved, likely having a shocking long-term impact on his/her development. The adult has a vested interest in keeping the child on the street, out of any early childhood development centre (of which many free or funded ones are available in poorer areas) or school (where a parent can apply for exception from school fees) because she knows if she is there with the child, motorists and passers-by are more likely to give than if she was there without the child.
So what to do? I have engaged (together with the boys) where it’s been possible especially with women and children in these situations, supplying walk-in centre information for organisations such as MES, which does amazing work especially in inner city environments, and who have the facilities and infrastructure to help with paperwork for Grants, who have Early Childhood Development Centres, Employment programs, Shelters and the like. Instead of arming yourself with small change, arm yourself with information about reputable non-profits or charities that are active in your area. Most soup kitchens and feeding points also have referral and ministry systems in place that go beyond “bread alone” for those in need.
So here is a key question: Does what I give and how I give it keep people enslaved, or provide a way out for them?
We can’t help everyone, but we can help someone:
Having worked at an NGO for 4 years, this is a very hard reality for me to stand in. And it’s a struggle to not become overwhelmed by the needs around us. We can’t help everyone. That’s the bad news. The good news is that, especially if you are a South African, you don’t have to go very far for an opportunity to make a difference. In our neighborhood, at our school, in our kitchens, and on our street corners we are every day presented with multiple opportunities to have an impact, be an everyday radical, to leave things and people, better than we found them. And in all of those encounters, we get to reflect Jesus to the world. In all of these encounters God is always asking, “who can I send?”
If we feel like we should change the world, maybe we will be too overwhelmed to do anything. But if we see how we are uniquely placed to change things for one person, maybe we will be inspired enough to do something. As a family, we recently signed up as sponsors for 2 kids via Compassion International. It an amazing opportunity to expose the boys to what it takes to break the cycle of poverty and how we can play a role (however small) what holistic care looks like, and by helping 2 boys not dissimilar to my 2, the journey is both relatable, practical and impactful.
Key question: are the people I encounter/ in my sphere of influence, better off or worse off because of me?
We must acknowledge the humanity in every person:
Even though the boys now know that we don’t hand out money to beggars, I try to model to them that we also make a point to greet every person that we encounter on our travels. Regardless of how far we have all fallen, we remain image bearers, and when we acknowledge a beggar by greeting them and making eye contact with them we are doing more than being polite, we are acknowledging our shared humanity, our shared brokenness, and fallenness. It’s both a restorative act as well as an affirmation of value. Their fall from grace might look different from mine, but fallen is fallen isn’t it? And our need for Jesus is the same. Because the gospel informs us that we are all poor. Of course it’s different types of poverty, physical, emotional, spiritual, but in each of those settings, our need for Jesus is the same. we are all in need of God’s grace and above all His deliverance, salvation, restoration and sanctification. Poverty is not the thing that separates us from the people we aim to help, it is, in fact, the one true leveler and the one thing we have in common.
We must continue to sow small seeds because many “ones” soon become “thousands”:
Acts of kindness are cumulative, and with our actions, we choose what we put out into the world. Whether we will thoughtlessly join the streams of negativity and hopelessness, or courageously resist, not allowing ourselves to become fatigued in doing good (Gal 6 v 9) is a choice. To help the boys choose to be a part of the solution, the good in the world, we use the Game for Humanity cards, the school version (there is an adult version as well). Have you heard of these? Every week the boys take a card with an act of goodness on it, for example:
Help with recycling at your school
Make a hungry child a sandwich
Help someone with their homework
Once they fulfill the action on the card they pass it on to another student, ideally the one they assisted, and so they spread good, one person at a time. It is a great way for them to see that they have control over their ability to infuse their environment with positivity, or the alternative, and to act responsibly within their little circle of influence to build on the cumulative effects of kindness and good deeds.
It’s tough out there. Doing good things takes a lot of bravery. But we don’t have to reinvent the wheels of response, opportunities are all around us. We are called to continue to choose empathy, even if it doesn’t come naturally because that is what Jesus did. I hope to raise children who are more deeply aware of the context they grow up in, of where they have been planted and why, certainly more so than I was as a white middle-class kid in South Africa. I don’t know if I will get this right but these types of conversations are a start.
This blog is an except from my talk about being and raising everyday radicals. For more on talks click here
There are more than 3 things. Obviously. Like, that a certain time of the day – the time that was previously referred to as happy hour – would now be referred to as unhappy hour. And that someone else’s bathroom, sleeping and eating habits would be dominating my conversations for the foreseeable future (and that I would see absolutely nothing wrong with that!). While I was pregnant with my firstborn, I read all the books. I knew about sleep training and pureed organic veggies. But there where soul challenges that I was about to encounter on my journey into parenthood that no one ever told me about.
(This blog is an abbreviated version of a talk called The 10 things I wish someone had told me about being a Mom – for more info on booking a talk or workshop please click here)
I have only been a mom for 11 years. According to Malcolm Gladwell that makes me an expert. But he’s wrong. I am categorically not one! But let’s face it, as moms, we really just need all the help we can get, and if you are reading this that means you agree with me on one thing – This parenting thing is flat out hard! It’s by far the hardest thing I’ve done and I grew up with 3 brothers and I am South African and I’ve competed in an International Beauty pageant! I will take on 12 competitive blonds with perfect teeth over an 11-year-old boy on a mission any day of the week!
So here are a few thing that I wish someone had given me a heads up about:
THAT IT WOULD SHAKE THE FOUNDATIONS OF MY IDENTITY AS A PERSON:
When I became a stay at home mom, I dreaded the “So, what do you do?” Question in social settings. I felt unjustified telling people I was a stay-at-home mom. It used to be so easy to talk about the career I was so proud of, and the awkwardness I felt at this new role in my life made me realize how much of my worth and identity I found in what I did for a living.
Woman are meaning makers and meaning-seekers, and when we become moms no one highlights to us the risk that we may now exchange one wrong source of meaning and identity for another. That we may very well go from being defined by our work an achievements to being defined by our home and our kids (and their achievements). That we may go from performance reviews and bonuses to the bar for our lives being Proverbs 31 (oh my goodness can you even imagine!) and the definition of our worth as our kids and their achievements! Can you imagine living under the pressure of having the justify your mom’s entire existence with every school report, or good night’s sleep! Is it any wonder even our kids our stressed!
But God never intended for us to bank our identity on the role of a dice, on the changing landscape of our roles or our seasons. Because then every word spoken in criticism of that becomes the definition of who we are, then our (absolutely inevitable) mistakes and failures (and that of our kids) are not learning opportunities or life happening, but a declaration of who we are, failures, as moms, as people. No, God’s anchor for our identity is the unchanging conviction that He holds about us, and His unalterable word over us.
Because the gospel says that we are who we are not because of what we do or achieve but because of what Christ did and achieved.
When we are in Christ, that is the final word over us.
Then our mistakes or failings will never be the defining story of our lives because grace means that we have never really blown it.
Then all that ever needed to be achieved is finished and that is a work us moms can rest in, not strive for.
Then whatever our accomplishments, achievements, and successes become a reflection of His grace and glory in our lives.
Living this truth as the anchor of who we are testifies much more greatly to our kids than striving for achievement!
THAT WE ALL LIVE BY A DEFINITION OF SUCCESS, WHETHER WE KNOW IT OR NOT
When my eldest was in Gr R they once filled in one of those cute forms for Mothers day, they go something like this:
My moms name is ___________
Her favourite Color is _______________
Together we like to _______________
But it was my son’s answer to one question that really stopped me in my tracks, literally. Where it said My mom says (Fill in the blank) a lot, he wrote HURRY UP. Jip, it was right there in black and white, “My moms says hurry up allot”.
As a mom, I defined how good the day was by how much I had gotten done. For me, productivity has always been the ultimate measure of success. Don’t be lazy, don’t slow down, do do do, go go go! If at the end of the day, the To Do list had lots of little red tick marks on it, then it was a good day. Conversely, if a kid got sick or the car broke down or I locked myself out of the house (jip, it’s happened!) then, the day, and by definition, I – was a failure.
Whether we know it or not, our definition of success, what we deem to be the ultimate measure of “good and enough” in our lives, is what drives our decision making, what we say yer or not to, what our schedule looks like (and our kids schedules) how we spend our money and our time. Comfort, status, being liked, all of these things could be our definition of success, the thing that cracks the whip in our lives so to speak, without us even knowing it.
The challenging thing about becoming a parent is that you are no longer preaching the sermon, you are living it, and they are watching.
So I had to ask myself, what am I reflecting to my boys about what I believe true success is, and I was forced to come up with a new definition of success.
So let me ask you this. If someone were to look at your life, your schedule and your bank account, what do you think they would say your definition of success was? Because it’s this definition that is messaging to our kids what we deem to be most important.
THAT THE DAYS ARE LONG BUT THE YEARS ARE SHORT
I didn’t say this, but since I heard it I tell everyone. Because I wish someone had told me!
Because we kind of all journey through life the way kids journey to the coast, always asking “Are we there yet”. In Highschool we just want to finnish and be a grownup, at Varsity we just want a real job and be independent, when we start out work we just want to reach the top and earn money and success, when we are dating we just want to get married, when we get married we just want to have kids, and then when we have kids and the shole adulting and parenting thing is suddenly very real and very scary and if we are honest, something that we would sometimes very much like to run away from! we’re like, oh my word this is so not fun! And we look longingly at older couples with older kids sitting placidly at restaurants enjoying a quiet meal (while our toddler picks gum up off the floor under the table and we are wondering if there is a changing station in the restrooms!) and we ask ourselves, when is this going to be over?
But now that my boys are 9 and 11, I can’t help but wonder, did I make the most of that time, those tough, early years? DID I see it as a shaping, refining, satisfying blessing God intends it to be or was I just white-knuckling it to get it over with!
Embrace the discipline of the moment instead of the distraction of your iPhone. God has given our children to us so we can teach them, but I have learned more and more, that He has also given them to us to teach us!
Embrace the mundane of the menial so you can find it’s meaning. Because wisdom is a treasure
Be present with your kids so you can make Christ present with them, because in every circumstance we are His witnesses, testifying to our kids what it means to follow Him in every circumstance.
Running on empty – that is how I sometimes feel as a mom. I get to the end of the day and feel like I have nothing left, like in every area, with every offering, I am lacking. Ok, so be honest, sometimes I also feel like that at the beginning of the day. Like my only hope is to just try harder, like trying harder is my slogan, my motto, my anchor. Like I am starting off from a place of lack. But that’s a lie. According to the God’s word, I have a promise not of lack, but of abundance! A promise that says I will be equipped for the Godly work of mothering with more than what I need, “that He is able to make every grace overflow, abound to us, so that in every way – always having everything we need – we can excel in excel in every good work” (2 Cor 9 v 8)
And is that not what we are busy with as moms? The good word, the work of raising the next generation of Christ followers (please
Lord!), the work of raising someones’ future husband or wife! It is the abundance for thís that Paul employs the Greek word Perisseuo for, to describe just how much grace we will receive – grace in excess, beyond average, to surpass/ overflow/ have leftover! And with every sunrise, it’s new, there’s more! Yes, please!
Make extravagant grace your slogan Momma, your motto, your anchor! I am praying for you!
(or lost or frazzled or disorganized or distracted or overwhelmed..basically, if you’re a modern-day woman)
I get it!
I am fairly confident that if you are reading this, you have a strong cerebral conviction that you MUST pray. Prayer is good. But sometimes you find yourself in a season where your prayers are trite, one-way conversations that sound allot like shopping lists and allot the same and that happen in the car or in the few minutes before you go to sleep. Or you find yourself disillusioned by a season of pleading desperation that didn’t actually “work”, and didn’t make you feel any more connected to God. Can I get a witness? I know what it’s like to suffer from distraction, frustration, lack of urgency, discipline and motivation in my prayer life. I have had to claw my way back into better habits and rhythms only to fall back into losing prayer in the blur of countless stressful days strung together. So here are some tips, from one struggling, distracted woman to another:
Determine your why: We have a ping pong table at home. It’s become a great opportunity for quality time between my husband and our boys. But my husband, God bless him, once made the fatal error of offering one of our boys a reward if he beat his dad at a heated game of ping pong. This, sadly, set a precedent whereby our son would only play when there was going to be a reward at the end. What my good husband was after, was quality time with his son. What my son was after, was a reward. It came to a point when I had to ask him a tough question: “do you spend time with Dad because of who he is to you or because of what he can give to you?”
Sometimes this is what our relationship with God is like. And this can be most evident in our prayer life.
There is no point in my starting off by saying “You must pray” if you’ve lost your “reason why”. And if you have lost your reason why, ultimately all I can tell you, is that our prayer life (or lack thereof) will reflect what we truly believe about God (eish, I know, truth bomb right!), whether we seek Him out because we have realised that in Him we live and breathe and have our being (Acts 17 v 28). Or whether we only hang out with Him if we can get something/ need something out of it. So first start off not by asking yourself, why don’t I pray, but asking yourself, what do I believe about who God really is?
Direct your thoughts and words: I have confessed before that my brain is always going in a thousand directions at once. I am like a laptop with too many tabs open. That is why “getting in the zone” to pray is hard for me. I also sometimes battle with praising and even thanksgiving beyond the tired, thoughtless phrases that I’ve so overused, and I’ve battled to find the words to pray for the people I love in a more directed, focused way.
In here I write down scriptures, promises to pray for them, affirmations and praises to help me fix my mind on God.
So go on honey, head out to Typo, I am giving you permission to indulge your stationery fetish. Call it an investment in your prayer life. Buy something that can lie open in your hand (that is why I use ring-bound notebooks), that you can easily and quickly add to. I have found that without a firm foundation in scripture, my prayers are just like shopping lists. On the other hand, God’s Word is like a prayer vocabulary and when we use it to shape our prayer language (so to speak), prayer becomes a deep, rich, two-way experience, instead of a one-way list of requests. And having something written down to pray through, for me, is a concrete move against my own internal noise which I battle to quiet down.
One of the purposes of prayer is that it aligns us with God’s thoughts and desires, and when we pray scripture we have the opportunity to internalize His very character and for our daily life to be framed by it.
Actually writing down your prayers is also a way of staying focused during your prayer times. Even if you just have 5 minutes, use them to journal your prayers, giving substance and depth to even the shortest bite of time you are spending with God and inviting Him into your world.
“Don’t just read the Bible. Start circling the promises. Don’t just make a wish. Write down a list of God-Glorifying life goals. Don’t just pray. Keep a prayer journal. Define your dream. Claim your promise. Spell your miracle.” Mark Batterson – The circle maker.
Dedicate time: I know that many of you are in a life stage where even a simple quiet time is a challenge, much less dedicated time to pray (are you a young mom? Check this out) I am not saying there is anything wrong with praying in the car, or praying when you make the beds – we are supposed to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thes 5 v 16)! But when I am talking to my husband while driving to an event we might be talking, but we are not necessarily connecting, right? It wouldn’t be considered “building intimacy”, right? To build connection you need to be fully present. To build intimacy you need to take time – ask any husband who has tried to rush it an failed! And so in my marriage, I may not be able to dedicate time and resources to a full-on date night, but we can sit down and have a cup of coffee, be present for and with one another and listen/ talk for as long as a cup of coffee takes. And if you are in a busy and distracting season and it’s all you have, believe me, that is all it takes: 15 minutes in which connection is rekindled, in which time is given to sharing and listening, and we find ourselves walking away anchored in, steadied, heard, connected. So set it out in your mind for your coffee break at work, or the quick lunch you grab before fetching the kids. Put your phone away as you sip that coffee, and instead of being filled with the highlight real of someone else’s fake life (yes, I know you’re are scrolling Facebook when you’re waiting for the kettle to boil!) , open up your prayer book or journal if you have one, and allow yourself a few moments to be present with God and to be filled with the real sustenance of the gift of rest.
Dump Perfect: in fact, apply this across the board to every area of your life! We often approach the disciplines of our spiritual life (devotions, prayer, fasting etc) the same way we approach diets, fatalistically. We go at full tilt, knuckling down for a time, until we fall off the wagon (thanks Cinnabon!) and then, instead of saying, “aww man, I shouldn’t have eaten that whole thing, but ok, I am picking up where I left off”, we say;”Aww man, this day (weekend/ week) is a write-off, I am giving in and I will start again on Monday!” In our spiritual life, we have this set idea that our interactions with God should look a certain way, take a certain shape and amount of time, make us feel x,y or z, and if we can’t have/ do that, we might as well not even attempt anything. And in that we lose our unction, we lose sight of the importance of the spiritual realm and its impact and then we wonder why we feel like our prayers hit the ceiling. I love the saying: “perfect is the enemy of done”. Because surely a simple, sincere prayer uttered in a moment of awe, understanding, desperation, is better than a perfectly crafted doxology left unspoken?
“If in prayer I come before a throne of grace, the faults of my prayer will be overlooked.” Charles Spurgeon
Dare to be honest: I hope you also have a group of friends in your life where you know you can be your authentic, uncensored self. Friends who love you in such a way that they don’t make you feel like your too much, or not enough, for whom you don’t need to dumb down or dress up any part of yourself in order to feel at home. I am blessed to have a few like that. And if I compare how I feel when I am around them with how I feel when I am around people in front of whom I can’t be myself, I know who I would rather hang out with, and I appreciate the authenticity of those relationships all the more. It’s no different with God. We are bound to seek Him out all the more if we experience the truth about His loving character and nature to us if we enter in with a conviction of His grace. We are bound to avoid Him if we have allowed the burden of sin and shame to pile up like dirty dishes in our soul, bound to skirt formally around Him if our picture of Him has become affected by half-truths and earthly wisdom and religiosity.
You have permission to be unhappy before God, desperate, ungrateful even, superficially joyful, just plain you.
Just take a stab at praying through the Psalms if you don’t believe me.
In Genesis Hagar refers to God as El Roi, as she experiences God as One who truly sees her in a world where she feels utterly unseen. You are seen darling, and loved, chosen, sought out not just despite of who you are, but because of it. That is the God we draw near to when we draw near in prayer.
Can I encourage you in whatever season you find yourself, to make small shifts in your schedule and perspective to have your daily life transformed by prayer?
“To pray is to change. All who have walked with God have viewed prayer as the main business of their lives. For those explorers in the frontiers of faith, prayer was no little habit tacked onto the periphery of their lives, it was their life. It was the most serious work of their most productive years. Nothing draws us closer to the heart of God. “ Richard Foster
Does this ever happen to you? You sit down for your quiet time (yes, you’ve managed to hit the snooze button only once, got up before everyone else, you have your crispy new journal and your gel pens, and a warm cuppa – so you basically just hit a perfect mommy trifecta) and your mind does one of 2 things:
It either goes blank. Completely blank. Like the look your 9 year old give you when you ask him why he can’t just remember to put the toilet seat up.
Your mind goes in 50 different directions at once. Now, I am an expert juggler. For example, I am constantly juggling my out of control love for my children with how much they sometimes annoy me (oh please, I know I’m not the only mom who thinks that but never says it!). But juggling 20 thoughts at once does not a productive quiet time make. And if I just sit down and close my eyes and start “trying” to “focus”, my thoughts just run amuck. No matter how hard I try, I am making a grocery list, a to do list, a list of deadlines or dinner dates or a don’t forget list from the minute I sit down.
The other challenge is that in our content driven, content crazy, content overload world, it’s not only hard to switch off to the many distractions but it’s also hard to actually select and stay on a focussed path of spiritual progress. The constant beeping of your phone and the million options of blogs, books, bible-studies, devotions, podcasts can leave you overwhelmed and spiritually rudderless.
Sometimes the fact is that we are so overwhelmed by content and choice, that our quiet time struggle has more to do with a lack of focus than a lack of time.
I have struggled with all of the above as a confessed information junky with a minuscule attention span, and so I wanted to share with you today the super simple structure I stick to to stay focussed during those precious meeting times with God.
Find the right spot: build an altar, the place where you praise, worship, remember, give thanks, receive. Clear a space for your body and your mind. I know you are always last on the list Mom, but be unapologestic about this!
Get in the zone: I light a scented candle, take 5 deep breaths while pressing hard on my fingertips or squeezing a stress ball (don’t judge ok this works for me), and then start off with a prayer of adoration. I often find that my spirit is sluggish to start with, regardless of the time of day that I meet with God, so I write out scriptures and psalms of adoration in a prayer book to lead me into God’s presence and centre me in His will. I have it ready as I sit down to start and I read those prayers, out loud if I can.
Adoration reminds my soul who I am about to sit down with and breathes expectation into my spirit.
Eliminate (mental and physical) noise: My phone used to be the first thing I reached for when I woke up in the morning. Before sitting down to read my bible I would already know how many emails I had to respond to later that day. Not good for focus or motivation. I found that keeping it off until after my quiet time helps me to bring my thoughts in line with the priorities of God’s Kingdom, instead of the priorities of my own. I also have one of those handy little mini note paper stacks. The moment a thought/ to do/ person that I have to call’s name pops into my head I quickly write it down and set it aside so it doesn’t completely derail me.
Have a plan: If you are into devotionals, have that at the ready. If you’ve started off the year with different areas of your faith that you want to study and grow in (think grace, forgiveness, faith, contentment), take out your concordance as a starting point. Maybe you’ve chosen a book of the bible to do. That’s what I prefer. But the best thing is to know what works for you but whatever you do, make sure that God’s word is at the centre of it. Go for quality and not quantity.
Set yourself up to crave the word. Whatever you are reading during your personal devotions must be taking you deeper into being able to hear God’s voice in His word for yourself.
Have a back up plan: because: life. And because: snoozebutton. If I oversleep or had very little sleep the previous night, if I’m feeling particularly mentally overwhelmed or even if I know I only have 20 minutes instead of the hour and twenty I was hoping to spend, I reach for a Psalm. Every year, I pick 2 Psalms as my “go to Psalms”for that year. Yes, only 2. Some days truth be told a couple of bites of a Psalm is all I can handle. There! That’s my real sometimes Mommas! And I am ok with that. And you know what, I think God is too. Having a plan AND a back up plan means I never sit down and hit a blank during my quiet times.
Make it plain: As in, make your plan something you can see. This is probably the thing that has helped me stay on track the most. Think of it as the agenda for the meeting you are about to have with God. I use one of those weekly planner pads with the tear off sheets so I can update it when I need to (subscribe to the blog this week to recieve a handy personal devotional schedule printable for your desk!)). This goes onto a whiteboard in front of me. On here I record what I am focussing on or reading at the moment, as well as who I am praying for each day.
Mondays I pray for my husband and sons and our housekeeper
Tuesdays the people I mentor/ disciple and my close friends and their families
Wednesday is my extended family
Thursday I have the privelage to pray for family and friends who don’t yet walk with Jesus. I also pray for all the missionaries I know on Thursdays
Fridays are for my kids’ school, my church and my country. On Fridays I pray longer, hiehie!
Saturdays are for my personal prayers, plans and goals, my writing and work.
Having this list up means that when I have promised to pray about someone or something, I can easily add it to the right place on the list. I can stay on track during my prayer time as I know every day of the week who I am praying for and it helps me pray with purpose. I also record here what I’m reading, what my memory verse is that week (which I also put on Q cards and stick all over the house) and I also keep a “spill over” list if I already know what devotional or word study or book of the bible I want to do when I am done with the current one.
Record and engage: Maybe you journal. Maybe you don’t. But when I study the bible, I make notes. It helps with focus because it’s an activity that I am physically engaged in, as in I am not just sitting there, I am doing something. And in the front of my journal are the 4 things I look for each time I sit down to read the Bible, and this is what I write down. This is something my mom taught me to do when I was still very young. So, I look for
Confirmations, commands, corrections and/ or promises from God
Keywords (you know, those ones that just “jump out”
Who is God (what elements of His character are evident in this scripture, what can I praise Him for?)
Who am I (what does this passage highlight about me, things I must repent of or see about myself?)
This is also a handy rubric that our church distributes to assist people during their queit times (get the explanation here). Whatever “method” you choose, make sure it engages you mentally, spiritually and physically and helps you to develop a pattern of discipline during this precious time of devotion. As I engage with the content, I pray, I confess, I plead, and what I studied then forms the jump off point for a time of prayer, confession and supplication.
If the God of the universe tells you something, you should write it down – Henry Blackaby
Go forth and share: Telling someone what you have gained from your time with God is a great way of internalising that knowledge. What do you talk about with your girlfriends Momma? With my closest buddies we can go from talking about the latest and best liquid blusher (my latest obsession!) to what God is speaking to us about right now in the space of a 10 minute conversation. I pray that you are as immensely privelaged as I am to have such an inner circle of women!
Your intentional engagemet with God and His word will reap a harvest, not just for yourself but also for the people God has placed in your path.
February is looming and I am sure you , like me, had lots of ideas about staying on track spiritually this year. I hope that these inputs will help you, and please share in the comments other tips and tricks that you find valuable in keeping your focus during your time with God! If you are in that babies and toddlers lifestage and a set time of personal devotion seems about as out of reach for your as 12 hours of uninterupted sleep, I have hope and encouragement for you to, read here! And remember:
God delights in you and is more interested in you showing up to spend time with Him than in what you accomplish in your quiet time. Eventhough in the world our measurement is achievement (think before and after photos, activity trackers, reading the bible in one year, and to do lists) what God honors and has always honoured is discipline. Your relationship with Jesus is the light that will shine out of your life, pointing others home, pointing you home.
The amount of time we spend with Jesus, meditating on His Word and His majesty, seeking His face, establishes our fruitfulness in the Kingdom – Charles Stanley
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