by Sarah Nichols
As a little girl, I loved to play with dolls and pretend I was a mom. I would change their diapers, take them to the pool with me swimming, feed them and put them down for naps. I couldn’t wait to become a mom one day. It was truly all I wanted to be when I grew up.
Thirty-something years later, my dreams have come true … well … kind of. Motherhood and marriage aren’t nearly what I romanticized them to be. In many ways, it is much more rewarding than I could have expected, but other times, if I’m being honest, it’s far from it. When spending time at the pool, I realize I would much rather be in the sun with a good book than in the water swimming and spending time in the pool with the kids.
We grow up dreaming about what our lives will look like, yet sometimes it can feel as if the walls are closing in on us. The enchantment we envisioned begins to feel more like enchainment.
I’ve experienced this struggle firsthand, though it has looked different depending on the season of motherhood and life I am in.
These days not only do we carry the weight of raising respectful kids who hopefully follow the Lord, but as we scroll through our phones, we are also constantly reminded of all the areas we lack.
We let ourselves believe the lie that most other moms have it more together.
Their kids are constantly colored-coordinated, matching, their freezers stocked, their pantries organized and their houses beautifully balanced in a decorated, minimalistic way. Oh, and the laundry … they have oversized laundry rooms and systems to keep up with this never-ending chore. However, no matter how hard I try, my kids are frantically looking for clean socks every morning as I try to get them out the door for school.
It’s easy to take these failures personally as if we have failed. The reality is we all struggle sometimes, even if it doesn’t show on our Instagram feeds and reels.
When I first became a mom, I didn’t experience the flustered new mom cliche, so many women face. My firstborn came ten weeks early, after a week alone on bedrest while my husband was away in the Air Force. Instead waking n the middle of the night by a newborn cry, I had to set an alarm clock just to wake up and pump, hoping my milk would come in, as I called the NICU night shift nurses for updates on my baby.
Many moms struggle in the beginning years. For me, the first five years of motherhood felt like a blur. Instead, I struggled as our kids began to get older and our calendar overflowed with sports and school commitments.
We all struggle differently, and these days with more connections and community happening online than in our actual lives, it’s easier to hide.
Satan would love nothing more than to make us feel like we are failing as moms, and we need to look to encourage fellow mom friends who need this reminder too.
What to look for in a mom who may be struggling:
1. She withdraws.
She begins to distance herself from those she used to spend time with. As moms, our days don’t always go as planned. Maybe the kids woke up throughout the night, or someone peed their bed, creating more laundry than was already there.
There are many reasons a mom friend may have to cancel plans or a playdate. However, if this becomes frequent, or she is no longer showing up at MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers), Bible study or your usual get-togethers, she may be hurting.
When we find ourselves hurting, sometimes our knee-jerk reaction is to push those who are closest away. We need someone to pull us in. You can be that person for a mom who is struggling.
2. She is experiencing significant changes in her life.
Almost any time a mom walks through a significant change, she is a candidate for some kind of struggle – whether that be moving her family, a career change, a new baby or some other kind of loss.
My husband spent 11 years in the Air Force, and we moved often. I would have considered myself a pro. However, one of our moves wrecked me. I felt so overwhelmed, more so than in any other move. I was experiencing so much change at once because our daughter started kindergarten a week after we moved. After a decade of being a stay-at-home mom, I no longer knew what my days would look like.
Change can be challenging, even if it’s good. If you have a friend walking through a significant change right now, chances are she’s struggling, whether she shows it or not.
3. She is physically showing it.
Maybe you can see it in her eyes. Perhaps it’s in her facial expressions and her body language. We can only hide our hardships and struggles for so long. If someone feels like they have been treading water for too long, they can begin to feel like they are drowning.
I’ll never forget when a dear friend came over to visit a couple of months after the move I mentioned above. When she asked me how things were going, I threw up a jumbled tumbleweed of words describing every emotion I felt, while trying to fight back the tears. She could see the struggle surfacing in my eyes.
When you know your friend well and take the time to stop and ask her how she is doing, you may see it in her response physically.
So how do you help?
If you have a mom friend you believe is struggling, here are some things you can do:
- Drop by her house, and check in on her.
- Offer to babysit and give her a break.
- Bring a meal.
- Ask her how she is doing.
- Listen well.
- Pray, for her heart and her hurt.
“A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24 ESV).
Motherhood is beautiful and challenging. It is a gift and a tool that God uses to grow and bless us.
May we stop striving for perfection in this title we have been given and instead, let the reminders of areas we fall short in lead us to lean on Him more, inviting our mom friends to do the same.
Sarah Nichols is a writer who loves encouraging women by sharing hope-filled stories that point others to Jesus. She lives in Tucson, AZ, with her husband and four kids. You can find more from Sarah at http://sarahnicholswrites.com.
God wants to help you grieve and celebrate at the same time
We have a whole day to celebrate and recognize the powerful influence of mothers. I’m especially filled with joy that we can celebrate all of you who call yourselves “Mom.”
Happy Mother’s Day.
God’s design of motherhood is so worthy to be celebrated. Sometimes as moms it’s easy to push away the applause and the celebration because we can easily think of areas that we missed it, times when we could do better, where we could talk nicer to our kids and just get it right. But in the midst of all your highs and lows, your heavenly Father wants to celebrate you, as well as the influence and established role of His design of motherhood. It’s powerful.
My mom went on to be with Jesus November 1, 2021. And Mother’s Day weekend is one that I was not looking forward to because I knew what those waves of grief would carry to the shore.
On Mother’s Day 2021, my mother stood on the platform with me in celebration of Mother’s Day. I was pregnant with my fifth child, Gianna, and it was just four months before my mom unexpectedly went into the hospital. Little did we know then that it would be the last Mother’s Day with our mom here on earth. We can still celebrate and honor my mom, even as she’s in heaven. But those of you who have lost people, you know it’s definitely not the same.
Because of all the COVID restrictions while she was in the hospital, we weren’t able to visit her right away. Finally, when we were able to go in and see her, she immediately had to go on a ventilator, and she was unresponsive due to the paralytics. The longer she was nonresponsive in the hospital, the more days went by that I wasn’t able to experience her being fully alive and engaged in my life. Her absence made me realize more and more how powerful her daily presence truly was in my life and my kids’ lives.
One night after coming home from the hospital, I went upstairs to sit in my son’s room in his rocking chair. I started to cry, thinking about the reality of my life at that moment.
A Heavenly Influence on Earth
I sat there just thinking about the influence my mom had on me, how I missed her daily presence and the empty spaces that now existed. Instead of generalizing the empty space of what I was missing, I began to write down specific ways that my mom, Terri McAuliff filled up my life, naming the empty space that I was feeling.
I also was so overwhelmed, thinking about the powerful role of a mother and God’s desire for that role to be represented here on earth.
It’s a calling for all of His daughters, whether it’s with our own children or spiritual children.
It’s His purpose for us to show up in our world and represent His character through His tenderness, His ability to provide a safe space for His nurturing Spirit, His attentiveness, His delight in the details, His spoken truth and love and His compassion and protectiveness. All these things show up when we say “Yes” to be a godly mother to those around us. It’s not limited to whether we have our own kids or not.
On previous Mother’s Day weekends, when my mom was here, and I had the opportunity to celebrate and encourage all the moms, I have been so sensitive, and at times, so overwhelmed with the pain and the grief that this day can bring for people. There’s nothing wrong with being sensitive to the emotions in the room, but not at the expense of downplaying the celebration and honor due (Romans 13:7). It’s more so just a posture of my heart of genuinely not wanting to stir up any more grief or pain this day may represent as I thought about people who:
- Did not grow up with a mother.
- Didn’t have a godly mother.
- Long to be a mom of your own kids.
- Have experienced a miscarriage, like I have.
- Or carry the personal shame of where we’ve missed it as moms.
When grief and pain are present, it can make us want to hold back from celebrating what we have, because of what others don’t have or because of what we don’t have. When we hold back our celebration because of our pain and our grief, we also hold back honor when honor is due.
So, in the painful moment of thinking about the space that my mom occupied and her influence, I decided in that rocking chair while my mom was in the hospital, that no matter what happened to my mom, I would never allow grief to overshadow or downplay the celebration and honor of motherhood! Even though I miss my mom greatly, that doesn’t mean I need to tone down the celebration and the honor of being a mom to my own five kids.
You and I serve a big enough God that we can fully celebrate without diminishing or denying our pain or grief. God can help us do both! Just because this day reminds me and perhaps you too, loss, it doesn’t make it any less of a day to celebrate. I think it is a part of God’s process of making beauty from ashes (Isaiah 61:3).
My five kids (all under the age of 8 at the time of this story) are so funny. They make me laugh – when I’m not annoyed by what they’re doing. It’s hilarious. I was watching my 10-month-old, Gianna crack up at my four-year-old, Beniah. He came into the room with his boxing gloves. I guess he just came out of the shower because he was naked. And he was doing his thing with his little punching bag that he got for his birthday. Gianna was laughing – her little 10-month-old self thought it was so funny.
I have so many moments I miss sharing with my mom. One of the things I miss the most is the shared joy from the experiences with my kids. I have moments with my kids that I actually enjoy more knowing my mom would enjoy them as well. Of course, I can share these moments with my dad, my husband, Paul and my great friends and spiritual moms. But nothing compares to sharing it with your own mom. My mom would think it was so funny.
An Invitation from Heaven
I asked myself, What is the emotion I want to share with my mom right now? It’s not just the memory but the bond that connects you with people, just being able to share the exact same emotion at the same time. I realized that emotion was joy – I just would love to share this joy with my mom.
Then, I felt this invitation from heaven. God does not force His way in, but He absolutely is knocking at the door of our hearts. And I felt this impression from heaven that said, “Can I try?”
It wasn’t an audible voice. Jesus didn’t show up in the room, but it was like when I’m cooking in the kitchen and my kids want to be a part of it. And they say, “Can I try that too?”
That’s what the message from heaven felt like to me. Like, “Can I try the joy that you want to share with your mom in this moment? Can I try, as your heavenly Father?”
It means so much to me because it wasn’t abrupt. It wasn’t like He was saying “Shouldn’t I be enough?” No, it was a sweet invitation. When God comes into the emptiness of our hearts, He brings His full self in. He is so graceful, sweet and tender. When I bring my full self into a room, my passion can be misinterpreted as anger or frustration.
I began to say, “Yes, God, I want that. What would that look like?”
He is so capable of sharing that emotion with me. Why? Because He is joy; He created joy. Not only did He create joy, but He also created the very beings that I was enjoying. The reality is He was actually able to share the joy of the moment even more with me than my mom ever did or ever will.
Sharing Emotions with God
And God loves to share the other emotions that you would call negative with us too. How can we call an emotion negative when it was emotion that God created? Because He is just as much in sadness as He is joy. He is just as much in grief as He is in celebration. He is just as much in anger as He is gratitude. Why? Because He created our emotions. Sometimes we don’t know how to handle those negative emotions. So, we run away from them, or we deny them.
I serve a big enough God, who meets me in my emotion.
This is a permission slip from your heavenly Father that says, “I am big enough so that whatever emotions come with your daily life, let me meet you in all of it because I can! I can in the aftermath of grief and disappointment and loss and betrayal and rejection.”
It can feel like a crater that’s so deep you can’t even see the bottom. If you open the door to the knocking of your heart from your heavenly Father, He will absolutely fill the gaps and overflow your cups.
It doesn’t make me miss my mom any less. It doesn’t make me more glad that she’s in heaven. I would love for her to be here right now. But God proves to me – over and over again – that until heaven, we do not have to keep living with empty glasses. The Holy Spirit is on this earth to bring comfort, to bring joy, to bring peace, to bring life and to help you move from anger to joy. There’s a part of celebration that really does bring beauty from ashes.
As a dynamic speaker, Ashley Daugherty has a passion for people to know Jesus and have a life-changing encounter with Him. Ashley and her husband, Paul, lead a thriving community of believers at Victory Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma, with a mission to connect people to God and each other, equip them to fulfill their God-given purpose, and empower the church to reach out locally and globally with God’s love. In addition to her ministry work, Ashley is a devoted wife and mother of five. victory.com
Intimacy and provision for the poor in spirit
We have trouble with Kingdom principles. Maybe if we didn’t expect things to be a certain way it wouldn’t be an issue. Maybe if we weren’t forced to deal with all our insatiable curiosities and menacing desires, maybe things would be different. But this is the circumstance we find ourselves in.
We would hope a solution exists. Maybe one day we’ll find it and realize that things aren’t the way they should be. Or maybe we will settle with the idea that the way things should be is truly the way things are.
Maybe we’ll find ourselves content. Maybe not. Maybe we think life should be simpler than it is. Complex should not be a word associated with other words such as grace, mercy, love or forgiveness. If something is true and honest enough to be associated with any of these great words, should we not also find simplicity? At least that would be a world we could agree with and function graciously within.
However, the opposite rings true often. The act of forgiving is not always simple. Offering grace, granting mercy or loving the seemingly unlovable, are not actions that align themselves with our nature, at least not the nature with which we were born.
Certainly, if the Kingdom which God designed is upside down, we are right side up and full of controversial opposites.
Admitting our ineptness isn’t easy. Our faults and failures – and they are many – define who we are and influence who we will become.
The closer you get to Jesus, the more you are confronted with your inability to do anything apart from Him (John 15:5).
The more experience you have in the Kingdom of God, the more you realize it will never be exactly what you want, but it will always be exactly what you need.
When we experience the Kingdom of God, we find a moral standard that does not cater to our will or emotions but benefits our souls, and our souls always crave more than our will and emotions can ever provide. The soul can only be satisfied when it is living, owning and immersed in the Kingdom of God; a kingdom that is most certainly upside down.
It is the place where up is down, black is white, in is out and your wants and needs are as polarized as oil and water. You’re not always content in this Kingdom. You don’t always agree with this Kingdom. This Kingdom doesn’t always make sense, and a battle of semantics, wills or argumentative banter will never be won there.
It is a kind Kingdom whose mission is non-negotiable and unrelenting. This does not appeal to some. We become antsy. We become discontented. And what happens when we become discontent with God’s Kingdom?
We build our own.
Sure, it’s not as big or as safe or as capable, but it’s ours and sometimes that’s all that matters. The paper-thin walls of our kingdom are only provisional, but they’re ours. The leaky ceilings and damp rooms are far less than ideal, and far less than what God’s Kingdom offers, but we choose to live there because it is ours.
Unfortunately, our kingdom is a very lonely place. There are thousands of kingdoms out there, why should a person choose yours? Yes, they may come and visit, but they, much like you, will always choose their own kingdom in the end.
Your kingdom loses its attraction rather quickly. Kingdoms are built and destroyed every day and yours is no exception.
God’s Kingdom, however, does not define itself by its inhabitants, as many cities do. God’s Kingdom is defined by its Creator.
Living in God’s Kingdom may mean that you loosen your tight grip on control. It may mean that you accept the role of prince or princess instead of king or queen.
God’s Kingdom revives the rattle-boned soul in ways your kingdom never will, even if it is upside down.
Welcome to the upside-down Kingdom of God. It is full of unexpected twists and turns and surprising endings. Jesus, the King of the Kingdom, offers a new, yet ancient, perspective on things you will encounter daily. This is a wonderful Kingdom, even if it is upside down. It will not necessarily be what you want, but it will most certainly be what you need.
It won’t be your Kingdom, but it is yours to experience, and it is filled to the brim with blessings that come from uncanny places. We find the ideal description of this upside-down Kingdom in the Beatitudes. The beatitudes are a series of “blessed are” statements found in Matthew 5:3-12.
Throughout this series we will explore some of the beatitudes and the true blessing it is when we experience it through the lens of the Kingdom of God. They may seem like opposing concepts — at first glance, but while God’s Kingdom may feel upside down at times, it always provides what we need.
Beatitude #1: The Poor in Spirit
“And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:2-3 ESV).
Seldom will you meet a person who desires poverty, although they do exist. If you were to take a stroll down skid row in Los Angeles, California you would certainly find more than one person who embraces a homeless lifestyle. They chose to live this way. There are also hundreds of young people who embrace the nomadic way of life and travel from Washington state all the way to California. They desire poverty, although they may declare it is not poverty at all. It is freedom.
Yet, freedom of this nature is costly. The absence of basic physiological needs, as well tragically unsafe environments, can cast a heavy burden on the body and mind. But this is not the type of poverty Jesus was referring to.
There are several types of poverty. There are those who are economically poor. Perhaps they’ve lost their job, mismanaged their money or never took to saving. We would say they are poor because they lack the resources to provide for their physical needs.
Then there are those who are mentally or emotionally poor. Their minds have been assaulted by life and they no longer find themselves capable of believing they can do anything good. It’s an impoverished state of mind which affects not only our attitudes but also every choice that follows. People who find themselves mentally impoverished have one of two choices. They can look to their own resources, will and ambition to pull them out of the muck, or they can look to God for His help.
The poor in spirit are those who understand their sad situation and look to God – and God alone – for their sustenance.
- He is their provider.
- He is their savior.
- He is their comfort.
God can take the situation they are in and turn it for their good. Those who are poor in spirit are blessed, not because they are without hope or help, but because they are positioned for intimacy and provision.
James 4:6 says, “But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble’” (NIV).
Favor. That is something we can’t earn or manipulate God into giving. It’s His to distribute as He wills. One thing is certain –
While we cannot force God to give us favor, we can certainly position ourselves to receive it.
God is actually looking for you! 2 Chronicles 16:9 says, “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him” (NIV).
God is looking for those who have embraced their need for a savior and submitted everything to Him. They recognize that without Him, they are nothing, will never possess anything of eternal value and cannot in any way save themselves.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, because they will find the One who is also searching for them. In a moment, your lack is met with His abundance, and you find more in God than you could ever find through your own efforts.
Nobody wants to be poor, not mentally, emotionally or economically. Yet in God’s upside-down Kingdom, our self-aware impoverished state is what truly gives us access to the riches of the Kingdom of Heaven.