Milliennial Moms

Here’s an excerpt from my latest from Desiring God called Millennial Motherhood:

“Our children need more than a mom who empathizes and feels with them. They need more than a mom who gets down to their level to convey solidarity and trust — which we tend to be good at. They need to know they have a mom who, because she knows the whole story of God’s word, sees through them, beyond them, above them, and answers to someone other than them.

Our children need moms whose minds direct their feelings, not the other way around. Moms should be a safe place for their kids. Our empathy is a gift that helps us to be that, but empathy with no connection to the solid truth of God’s word is the opposite of safe. It’s crippling to ourselves and our children.

Encourage your children to feel deeply, but not at the expense of thinking deeply — rather, as a result of it. Encourage them to feel strongly, but with the reins of truth in hand, ready to pull back when an emotion has taken the bit in the mouth. Encourage them to feel passionately, but to do so about the things that are fitting to feel passionately about and with an unflappable trust in the God who is over all feelings.

Guilt and confidence are the strange bedfellows of the millennial mom. Pew records that 57 percent of millennial moms say that they are doing a “very good job” at parenting, compared with 48 percent of Gen X moms (born 1965–1979) and 41 percent of baby boomers (born 1946–1965).

Yet it takes only the most cursory glance at any social-media platform to see that millennial moms are awash with guilt. Guilt and the millennial mom are like peanut butter and jelly. They just seem to go together. You know it’s true because if you’re a millennial mom who just read “peanut butter and jelly,” you likely just felt a stab of guilt that you fed that to your kid this week.

Millennial moms are constantly wondering whether they are doing the right thing. It’s like we’ve lost our compass and can’t find north, so we get on social media or Google to try and figure out if other people are feeding their kids PB&J three times a week and if there are any studies that tell us what damage it causes.

In a world where information about everything is at our fingertips, it seems everything has been elevated to the status of “this matters.” So, from laundry to food to sunscreen to screen time to simplified home decor, nothing is no big deal to millennial moms. And because we also are finite women who cannot ride every hobbyhorse at the same time, we are exhausted, burnt out, and often very guilty.

Yet, because we reinvent the wheel on every possible facet of life, researching (or rather Googling) each topic for ourselves and reaching our own conclusions, we tend to be very confident — even haughty — about the conclusions we’ve reached and the job we’re doing, whether it’s about vaccines or vacuums.

The benefit to our guilty confidence is that we do have, in Christ, a constant, never-ending absolution for it. Jesus met all the righteous requirements of the law for us and then died in our place. We also are a part of Christ’s body, with spiritual mothers and fathers who can guide and help us to think Christianly about every part of our lives. Remember, millennial mom, that our guiltiness and haughtiness was nailed to the cross. We are free to live according to Jesus’s ways.

According to a study called Digital Women Influencers, millennial moms spend four more hours per week on social media than other moms. They also have 3.4 social media accounts as compared to the 2.6 accounts of other moms. We are connected, yet dissatisfied. We portray something we don’t have and long for the very thing we project. Every Facebook like and Instagram heart scratches an itch on the soul that is gratified for a moment, only to feel itchier and itchier as the days wear on.

Our motto could easily be “The grass is always greener on the other side of the Clarendon filter.” We make our grass as green as possible via those perfect Instagram filters — it’s our way of quieting the inner suspicion that our lives fall horribly short of everyone else’s. Our generation’s badges of achievement aren’t the new car or boat or vacation home, but the new experience and the new destination — all of which are fully documented — so we long and ache for the next best thing.

Often, the next best thing is whatever we can come up with to share in our social-media feeds. Nothing is sacred, nothing private. Could it be that our sharing isn’t so much an overflow of the fullness of life, but a scraping and grasping to connect and appeal to our viewers? Getting others to sympathize or idolize us with an online picture, a status, or a joke seems to be good enough for us.

But it isn’t enough. All the satisfaction of online approval is really just bloat — it looks and feels like we’re full, but the fullness is actually nothingness, and it’s preventing us from consuming what really would nourish us: God’s word, Jesus Christ, and his blood-bought body, the local church.

We must repent of the sin of trying to be virtuous apart from Christ. We must repent of online pretending and online oversharing. Our longing, our aches for more have a direction; they aren’t pointless. They’re pointing us to someone. Jesus Christ is the person we need. He is the place, the final and best destination that lays a lasting balm on the ache in our heart for something better.”

Read the rest.

Motherhood is a Means, or, Give Them a Beautiful Inheritance!

Motherhood is one of those things that we instinctually know is important. Yet it isn’t the end.

It is the mission field of the mundane. Daily giving up myself for the sake of my short people. Daily pouring out every truth and fact and shred of insight and wisdom that is stored up in me to impart it to little hearts and little heads and little hands.

Yet, I don’t control the end. I don’t write the story. I’m just a character in it. I know how I’d write it if I were doing the writing, but I’m not. And we (especially me) should all be very very grateful that that’s the case.

The end and final chapters for my kids will mostly likely be without their mom. I’ll be written out–dead. They will start, in a very short time, making decisions quite independent of me. The influence I’ve exercised over them, as all parents do, will be spent. I recognize that I can’t save my kids. Saving is God’s work.

But what is it all for–this motherhood that we all know in our gut is some of the most important work on the planet. Anyone with a good mom will attest–having a good mom is important! And anyone with a bad mom will doubly attest–having a good mom is important!

It’s because motherhood is a means. It’s a means to our kids’ salvation. It’s a (often THE) means to imparting wisdom and Biblical thinking and the anchor that will hold in the high and stormy gale. For a child, the authenticity of the Gospel story is played out in living color by their parents–their mom. Here’s an example: I believe that Jesus is God–He came to earth and lived a sinless life, died on a cross to take the penalty for my sin, and my old self died with Him. Then three days later rose again and I am raised to new life with and in Him.

So how does that play out before their eyes in my life? How about in line at Chipotle at lunchtime during a workday, when the restaurant is filled with professionals and we bustle in breathless with grins on our faces at the thought of food prepared with someone else’s hands! I’ve got the 2-yr old in my arms and the other three are swarming around my legs. We cheerfully bounce into a line about 4 deep and are followed up by 3 or 4 more hungry customers. I glance around with a smile surveying the temperature of the patrons.

It’s cool, to put it mildly. Directly behind us is a woman whose face is visibly annoyed. Perhaps she was concerned that our order would take a long time because she inches closer, willing the line to move ahead and willing us out of it. In front of us is a “young adult.” Older than a teenager, but clearly not out of the teenager phase of life. He pretends like we aren’t behind him. How embarrassing to stand in line by children.

My response to this says something about what I believe the Gospel to be about.

So, I quietly stand my ground with my kids–they’re mine. I look in their faces with love and happiness–happiness that they exist and that we are together. I do not look embarrassed or try to apologize for their existence. I hold my baby and kiss her head. When our turn comes I order with dignity and help my 4 yr old to see over the counter what’s happening. I explain what a carnitas burrito is and why guacamole will be their favorite when they’re old like me. I claim them, I value them, I protect them, I teach them and mostly, just by our sheer existence in that place, I say, these kids are mine, and they’re worth sacrificing for, they’re worth being poured out for, and I’m doing it. That’s what God does for us–claims us.

Also, these kids are not accessories. They’re people. I don’t “wear” them. They aren’t dogs either–there to love me unconditionally and perform some tricks. No, quite the opposite, I serve and love them. That’s what Jesus does for us.

It’s part of a Gospel picture. There are a million more that we paint for our kids by how we respond when they’re vomiting on Palm Sunday or at Christmastime or whether we yell and pitch a fit over the third cup of spilled milk, or chuckle and grab the paper towels. And I fail, don’t get me wrong, I fail. They even get to see how grace covers me when I sin and fail–another portrait of Jesus’ sacrifice.

Bottom line is that the Gospel story, the true story, must be told with words and it must be borne out in the moments of our lives. These are the means of motherhood to bring a child to trust the Trustworthy One. A trustworthy mom who stands her ground and loves her kids in a hostile Chipotle is like a line falling in a pleasant place for those kids and the line points to the Savior–it is a beautiful inheritance. It’s not guaranteed, the secret things are God’s, but it is my calling. May you do it, Lord, for Your Name, El Kana.

“The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup;
you hold my lot.
The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.”
(Psalm 16:5-6 ESV)

Why I’m Not The Better Mom

This post has been waiting its turn and today’s the day.

Perhaps you’re familiar with a very popular blog called, “The Better Mom.” I have read a dozen or so articles from the blog. Suffice it to say that I’ve read things I agree with and things I disagree with. The turmoil of reading the things I disagree with is enough for me not to read it regularly and I am not wanting to comment specifically on it.

But I do want to comment on this idea (which seems ever popular among Christian moms) that there is a formula to “better” and if we follow the three steps to finding a good attitude and take control of all the externals of our life, everything will sail along the way it’s supposed to.

I want to comment on it because it’s a flat out lie.

I can’t be The Better Mom, because I’m not better. I’m two things: I’m sinful and I’m redeemed. I’m broken and I’m healed. I’m dead and I’m alive. That’s it. Not better– as if I’m climbing my ladder toward good. All the needful things have been done for me. And what’s been done isn’t “better,” it’s The Best.

We so much want to be able to control things. If I eat this way, I’ll feel good all the time. If I read my Bible in the morning, I’ll never be grouchy with my kids. If I start training my kids at 1 month old how to sleep correctly, they’ll be great sleepers.  If I have natural labor, my child will be healthy. If I’m always available to my husband, he’ll never look at porn. If I do do do, I will be be be.

That’s just backwards and untrue.

Here’s how it really is: Because of what He has done. He has done. He has done. I am His. I am His. I am His.

All of the sudden the three tips to a new attitude sound pretty small. Jesus bled and died to take away my sin. He was buried and three days later God made him alive again and not only have I died with him, I now live in him.

There’s my new attitude.

Life is filled with practicalities. We must DO things after all. We must eat something and therefore we must decide what it is we will eat. But if we think for one second that by putting the Gluten-Free Organic Whole Food Tofu in our mouth, or gutting out drug-free childbirth, or waking at 5am for devotions and free trade coffee puts stars on our holiness chart and somehow makes us a better mom, we’ve messed up the Gospel, big time.

It is for freedom that we have been set free. Must we submit again to our own yoke of slavery and law? Food and exercise and peculiar routines and habits do not commend us to God. Jesus commends us to God.

Better is never enough. Better is not good enough for God. But Jesus is Best. He is good enough for God. He is mine and I am His.

And with my life hidden with Christ in God, by His Spirit, a marvelous work happens that makes who I am forever: His daughter clothed in righteousness, match who I am right now: His daughter struggling against the remnants of sin (also clothed in righteousness). The Holy Spirit is aligning the two realities. It’s called sanctification.

Notice that I’m struggling against sin, not preferences. And what is sin? Sin is rebellion against God. Sin is not: eating donuts or surfing the web or fertilizing the lawn or having a bedtime at 9:00 o’clock. All of those things could be done by a sinful heart, which would make their action sinful, but they aren’t sin.

I could fertilize my grass because I want to look “better” than my  neighbor. That’d be sin. Or I could fertilize my lawn because I love my neighbor and I don’t want to negatively impact his property values with my unsightly yard. Hearts are sinful, not fertilizer.

I guess that’s the long way of saying I’m not The Better Mom. But I am a redeemed mom. I am a needy, desperate, satisfied and loved mom. I am a sinner-saved-by-grace-alone-through-faith-alone-because-of-Christ-alone mom. And that’s way better than all my efforts to be a better mom.