Happy Mother’s Day, ladies! I thought that it might be fun for you to get to hear from some of my favorite mamas on this planet. These ladies have managed to love Jesus, raise their kiddos, and keep their marriages in tact. Quite a feat, if you ask me! They are grandmas, obsessed with their grand babies and have been huge examples to me. I asked them to share their successes and failures in parenting and give us their best advice.
Let me give you a quick introduction to these gals:
First is my mom, Annette. She is a drug and alcohol counselor in OK. She is funny and fun. She would wake me up regularly at the butt crack of dawn saying, “Wake up! Let’s play!” When I was in high school, she drove a big, ugly, purple van and would roll the windows down, blare rap music, pump her first out the window, throw her head back and laugh hard at her brilliance. She is Madre to three kiddos, G-Ma to three, but Taffy (her dog) is her favorite child. She’s thoughtful, determined, and creative.
Then we have my mother-in-law, Dana. She and my father-in-law just celebrated their 40th anniversary! She leads worship at the church they pastor and teaches piano lessons in KY. She is passionate about business marketing and serves her heart out. She has a sharp, strategic mind and keen eyes. She can look into a situation, see the potential problems, and knows how to fix them. She’s loves to have her people home, around the dining table, playing Taboo with her. She is Mom to two kiddos and Mamaw to seven. She’s smart, loyal, and focused.
And last but not least, is my bestie, Jen. She is a realtor in east TX. I’ve never seen someone love on people like this woman. She is a people magnet and everyone is “Darlin'” to her. At 36, with four littles at home, she was diagnosed with a very aggressive breast cancer. Just to show you her heart, my first daughter was born 8 weeks before Jen’s double mastectomy. The moment she woke up from surgery, her first words were, “Where’s the baby?” She didn’t ask how the surgery went… her first thought was snuggling her tiny niece. God miraculously healed her and she is living life! She is Mama to four and Minnie to one. She is strong, nurturing, and confident.
“The things I believe that Steve and I have given/taught our kids that have the most lasting impact are simple but important: valuing others, having an excellent work ethic, finishing what you start, problem solving skills, and resilience. When you think about being able to care for and be kind to others, you have to start with yourself. I believe that as a mom, it’s vital to give your children a sense of belonging and let them know that they are individually and collectively part of your heart. I love how all of us love to be around each other. None of us think of a holiday get-together and think, “Ewe- I have to see THEM.” We pull out the cute paper plates, cups, and straws and have a PARTY. Because somehow, with God’s help, they actually enjoy spending time with each other.
“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might,” (Ecclesiastes 9:10 NIV). This is something we have always conveyed. If you start something; whether that be softball, cheer, basketball, or a job, do it very well, learn as you go, and finish well. Never leave any situation without a graceful exit. Give that 2-weeks notice, work while hard you’re there, and don’t bail out just because it gets hard. See things through because sometimes you are learning how to lean on God through a difficult circumstance, and sometimes you are learning how not to treat people when you have an opportunity to lead others.
I have three children with distinct personalities, and they are each extremely passionate. Ask any of us about that level of passion when we play Scattegories, #argument every.single.time! (They just don’t like losing, that’s all, lol.) Tiffany, Matthew, and Hannah are all intelligent, gifted, kind, and resilient. When you look at resilience, some think of it as being able to bounce back. They have all had their own personal challenges and disappointments, but they all have a healthy level of “With God’s help, Ima get through this!” We all encourage, #push each other to be the best we can and to never give up. (“Just keep swimming”.)
What did I not do well? When you’re looking back at things, there will always be some regrets and some hurts there. Did I always treat everyone the same? Did I always have a mature adult way to handle things? Were there ever times when I yelled, stomped my feet, cussed, and acted like a 12-year old? Hecks to the yes for all of those failures and more. There has been a lot of growing up to do. While they went through their teenage years, I went through mine too. I just happened to be 37 instead of 13. The teenage years for each of them was difficult, and I think part of that was my own level of maturity. I would get right in there and argue with them as if I was going through puberty too. Yes, I regret some of those situations and those butted heads and tough moments. I believe God has and will continue to redeem those years. With God’s help, I’m not quite as hardheaded as I used to be. Although, I still catch myself wanting to argue with a wall now and then.
I’d like to take a moment to encourage moms-to-be, moms that desperately want-to-be, foster moms, moms of teenagers (Lord, bless you), and anyone else that is serving in a mom role. Whether that is in the form of single dads, grandparents, or other family members or friends that have stepped in and stepped up to take care of children. We don’t have to be perfect. We cannot be everything for our kids. We will screw up. (That’s so encouraging, right?) The thing about screwing up though is: those moments serve as a perfect opportunity to come back to the kids and tell them you messed up and that you’re sorry. Seeing us do that gives them permission to mess up too. Hearing us be honest about our failures keeps them from hiding things from us, because they’re afraid we won’t understand. There will be conflict, but conflict is never the end of a relationship. It’s just iron sharpening iron. Remember, from the day they are born, their job is to be independent. We’re just along for the ride.
I’m sharing a picture of my mom and some things that she did well, because I want you to know that the small things really do matter. My mother sewed all of my clothes until I was in the 6th grade. She did everything with excellence, so they were gorgeous. She even made me Barbie clothes out of the leftover fabric. Check out the oh-so-cool 70’s suede Barbie purse right there. She made sure I was in Girl Scouts and then took care that I made it to all of their events. The little turquoise ring is from a trip we took to Anadarko when I was 10, and she also bought me my first Bible when I was 8. As a grandma, she knitted clothes for my babies.
The small things are important—they are the big things when raising kids. Take those kids somewhere—do things with them—free things: library, parks, walks, kites, trips. Enjoy the kiddie pool in the backyard, eat the Cheetos, and drink the Hawaiian Punch because before you know it, they’ll be grown up and having their own kiddos. All of the times you take to have fun with them will stick with them—they’ll remember things like you holding 3 sparklers: one in each hand, and one in your mouth for the 4th of July. Happy Mother’s Day y’all!”
First of all, let me say that God blessed my husband, Anthony and me, with two wonderful children who have followed in the path of ministry and are serving the Lord in spite of our parenting. I give a lot of credit to Dr. James Dobson and Focus on the Family for any wins I had as a mom, and am thankful to have found him when my children were very young.
Our oldest, Andrea is married to Jonathan, and they have five precious children — Evie, Will, Natalea, Ryan and Megan. Jonathan is an ordained minister and a public-school teacher. Andrea homeschools her oldest three, and is probably the most patient mom I’ve ever known.
Jon-Michael is married to Tiffany, and they have two beautiful daughters — Hadlee and Landree. He and Tiffany co-pastor their church together. I love how they are so “real” and transparent about their lives, both with their church family as well as their daughters.
I thought being a parent was easy because Andrea was such a compliant child. Then Jon-Michael came along. Where Andrea had a quiet, obedient manner, Jon-Michael loved to argue and push the boundaries. There were tears sometimes, but mostly laughter and lots of fun memories.
What I learned about parenting both of my children is that you have to embrace and celebrate their differences. If you have more than one child, you know that you don’t love one more than the other, but you do love them differently.
I remember saying to them many times, “We’ve never done this before, and we’re going to make mistakes.” Admitting your mistakes to your children teaches them that they can also admit their mistakes.
The thing about having a passionate child, is that they show their passion in many ways. When he was about 15, Jon-Michael printed out “You are now entering the threshing floor” and put it on the door of his walk-in closet, where he often spent time in prayer. It’s still on his closet door today, and I love seeing it every time I walk into his old bedroom.
One of my favorite memories of Jon-Michael as a teenager is coming home about 9:00 on a Saturday night after dinner out with Anthony. We walked into the house and worship music was blaring. As we came into the family room, there stood Jon-Michael with arms raised, tears pouring down his face, praise flowing from his lips to Jesus. Saturday night. A teenage boy. Prayer and praise. A miracle.
Another memory is when Jon-Michael graduated from high school. Several of his friends wanted to go to a sort of night club for teens. He assured me that there was no alcohol served there, but I just didn’t have a good feeling about it. He thought if he told his friends he wasn’t going with them, that he would be left out. After several minutes of “But… but… but…” from Jon-Michael, I finally said, “Okay. I want you to go pray about it, and if the Lord gives you peace about going there, we’ll let you go.” (What he didn’t know at the time was my telling him to pray about it was actually me saying, “I’m tired of arguing about it. God, You handle it!”) A few minutes later, he came downstairs with a bounce in his step and said, “We’re going to the movies instead!” What he had feared about feeling left out, turned into his friends following his lead instead.
As far as mom fails go, I have plenty of those as well. I could tell you about the time that our neighbor came over and said, “Did you know that your son is on top of your roof?” Or the time Jon-Michael cut his foot while “practicing his knife-throwing” with my steak knives. Today I’ll tell you about the time I screamed at my children. They were probably about 8 and 12 at the time. I had terrible mood swings and PMS, and during those days each month their normal sibling bickering would really get on my last nerve. On one such day, I had had enough and to let off some steam, I let out a blood-curdling scream. Then, I said, “If you all don’t stop bickering, I’m going to scream!” To which Jon-Michael replied, “Mom, you already did.” Then we all had a good laugh!
I’m sure you’ve noticed that none of my stories have been about Andrea. To give you a glimpse into their opposite personalities, I’ll tell you one more story. One day when Andrea was about 14, we were riding in the car together. I don’t really remember what we were talking about, but for some reason I asked her, “Andrea, have you ever done anything you weren’t supposed to do?” She thought for a long moment, and said, “No, not really.” Then after a few minutes she said, “Well, I did eat on your bed one time while I was watching TV.” That’s probably the worst thing she’s ever done in her entire life!
My favorite Bible verse when I think of my children is “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” 3 John 1:4. I would say that my biggest “win” as a mom is that my children are serving the Lord and teaching their children to “walk in truth” as well. There really is no greater joy than that!
If you raise your children to know the Lord, not just attend church, pray for them and their future spouse, and admit your mistakes and shortcomings. God will do the rest. I’m living proof of that.
I think it is so much easier for mama’s to list out all of the bad things that they have done as parents than the good things. Sometimes I would like to just erase and forget the bad things and pretend they didn’t happen! So I am going to hit the worst head-on! I think the worst thing I have done as a mama, is taking things too personal. My personality is the type where I want everyone to get along and love one another. I want peace between my children and me. And when there was a conflict I internalized it as if every conflict was chipping away at their love for me. I felt like I had to be perfect. Even when I disciplined them, I had such a hard time worrying that there was a wedge forming in our relationship. Then God… There are always places in our lives where He shows up and those are the “Then God” moments. He showed me that it stemmed from my relationship with my own parents. Conditional love was the name of the game. I viewed everything through that lens. I viewed God, myself, my husband, my kids, my friends- everyone through that filter. He began healing me through His love, His unconditional love, and I began to have more confidence in all of those areas. Now, if I need to throw down with my kids, I have no problem! LOL! BUT, I also have children that are some of the best friends I have ever had! We love each other unconditionally!
I think the best thing I have ever done for my kids is to live my fight right in front of them. I fought to come out of serious childhood abuse and the effects of it. I sought help from God and worked very hard to overcome the consequences of the actions of the abusers. I was determined to surrender, to God, all of the junk and allow Him to do what He needed to do as long or as quickly as He needed. If I saw something in my life that was a stronghold, I went to the Cross. In the midst of that, I had to fight cancer, so I went to the Cross. I also have dealt with a lot of loss and… I went to the Cross. When I went to the Cross, they came right along! They got to see the scales of death, shame, pain, anger, and suffering fall off. And they witnessed someone who once sludged through depression and chaos, transform into someone who floats in life and peace. They learned to fight and they learned the voice of Holy Spirit. I have raised some feisty, spiritual fighters. And for that, I give God all the glory!
If I could give some advice it would be this: Number one, Love the Lord, with all your heart, your soul, and your mind. They will see that. And two: Love, respect, and honor their father, especially in front of them. My children know that daddy is my favorite. They love that. They want that for themselves. They are healthier for it. If you’ve been through divorce, STILL respect their father even if it’s hard. They are watching us. What we sow, we and our children will reap.
I know this has been a long one, but I want to quickly give you mine! The other ladies are out of the phase of raising little ones and I am still in it. I have a 9 year-old and a 4 year-old. I think one of the best things that I have done as a mom is to let my girls make messes. 🙂 We paint, bake, and have water balloon fights. We go hiking, look for bugs, and eat lots of snow cones. We eat dinner in the living room at least once a week while we watch movies together. Those are the things that I hope they remember. It’s so easy to get stuck in a rut because the days ARE SO LONG! But the years are short. I am laying the foundation of their childhoods right now, in every moment. I want their childhood memories to be filled with joy and fun!
I think another thing I do well with my kids is show them that the world doesn’t revolve around them. I love Jesus and their daddy, mentor, counsel, lead church, write, and have girl friend time right in front of them. There are times when they have to wait because someone else needs mom. That’s good and healthy. They are expected to see and serve others.
My biggest mistakes are when I let fear and people pleasing interrupt my relationships with my kiddos. I struggle with perfectionism and care way too much about what other people are thinking about our family. I have overreacted to my kids out of shame instead of leading them from a pure place. If my children need to be disciplined, it needs to be for their sake and growth – not so we can look like we’ve got it all together. Because we absolutely do not!
My advice is to have vision for and be intentional with your family’s calendar. Life has a way of filling our time up if we allow it. We can start a week with nothing on the calendar and then, all of a sudden, there’s not a minute to sit down and breathe. I encourage you to take a look at the month and schedule in times when your family is unavailable. It’s nice when you can open your calendar and say, “Oh, I’m sorry, we have something scheduled for that day.” And you do! Lovin’ on your family certainly counts as “something” and has to be a top priority.
Your family’s health is more important than meeting everyone else’s expectations. One of our pastors told us a few years ago that, “Ministry is about disappointing people.” (So encouraging!) Again, the people pleaser in me struggles with that, but it’s true. I will never be able to go to everyone’s everything. I recently read The Best Yes by Lysa Terkeurst. The basic premise of the book is when you say “yes” to one thing, you are saying “no” to something else. We have to choose the best places to give our “yes”.
I have been blessed by the incredible moms that God put in my life. These ladies are world changers and deserve honor. They all had struggles, but bravely chose to hold onto Jesus and keep going. I am beyond thankful for their leadership and character. Their example and discipleship made me who I am. I stand and call them blessed today.
“Her children rise up and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
‘Many women have done excellently,
but you surpass them all,’”
(Proverbs 31:28-29 ESV).
If you’re a parent, hopefully you were able to see that even great mamas mess up and make mistakes. We just can not expect to handle the HUGE responsibility of parenting perfectly. We have to lean on the Lord for strength and wisdom. He is, after all, the only perfect parent. Praying for miracle babies to those of you who desire a family.
Happy Mother’s Day!