Celebrate Motherhood Series: A Guest Post from Sarah Cooney

sarah copyChild of God (Galatians 3:26). Sister in Christ (Matthew 12:50). Heir of God (Romans 8:17). Co-heir with Christ (Romans 8:17). Servant of God (2 Corinthians 6:4). Slave of God (Romans 6:22).

Each identity has indescribable value, honor and equal importance and prestige.

Those are some of the names I go by since the Lord saved me 7 years ago. The list of names I’ve been called has only grown since then. Other names I’m especially fond of being called these past years have been that of bride, wife, mother, mama, mommy, and ‘Moommmmm!’ (for when my 2-year old daughter impatiently tries to get my attention).

All these names and identities make my heart swell with joy and thankfulness, but I would be dishonest if I said this was true 24/7 and 365 days a year.

Before I write any further, please allow me to provide a disclosure that I am no fountain of wisdom. Having only been in the mission field on foreign soil less than a year, I have struggled more than I have strived. I have failed in my attitude of heart and obedience to Christ more times than I can count in all areas, parenting no exception.

Despite all that I’ve been taught and all that I’ve learned, transition and adjustment in a foreign country and culture had been difficult for me. I spent my first couple of months initially blaming the external factors in my life for the struggles I was facing.

Praise be to God, our merciful Father and Savior, did not see it fitting to allow me to remain in such blatant ignorance and sin. He mercifully opened my eyes, and drew my heart to truth and repentance.

“O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God- through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Romans 7:24-25 NKJV

And that has been an echoing theme in my journey of motherhood and all aspects of my life. Going over and over before the throne in neediness and repentance over my sinful heart and attitude about being a wife, a mother, a sister, and an employer now in a third-world country no less.

Raising a child in a different culture, environment and even climate has been challenging and sacrificial to say the least. Challenging because there is a lack of conveniences here that are so readily available in the United States. There is little to no support system at first, no friends, no family to help. Life is also unpredictable, you never know exactly when to wash and dry your clothes because it is completely dependent on weather. And it is sacrificial because being on the mission field has meant missing Grammie, Mimi, Poppop, Aunts, Uncles, holidays and birthdays together.

However, the Lord has also afforded us many privileges while we have been here in South East Asia and one of which happens to be that my physical responsibilities have been greatly eased. I have a wonderful house helper who comes to help me with chores and cooking on weekdays. We can afford to send our little girl to a Christian play-group with other children her age (though the occasional outbreak of hoof and mouth is no picnic!). Getting help to fix things around the house doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, and we get to eat fresh organic produce daily at a fraction of what it costs in America.

So why do I struggle, you ask? It is my heart. My stubborn, fleshly heart, which the Lord has shown me these past months refuses to submit to being called one name in particular.

Slave. Slave of God, slave to Christ.

No rights. No demands. No entitlements. Just duty.

You know your heart is twisted in some sinful way when the word of God offends you. The passage on the undeserving slave in Luke 17:7-10 did that to me. I was offended. How could Jesus say such an inconsiderate thing? Doesn’t he know how tired and exhausted that slave would be after a long day of toiling in the field? How could he say that it is only the slave’s duty?!

I am so thankful to be saved. I am so thankful that the Holy Spirit doesn’t leave me to my pride and ignorance. In time and after pondering over that text over and over again, referring to commentaries, and discussing with my ladies’ group, all while asking myself what that meant to me as a wife and mother, it finally hit me.

We are good-for-nothing slaves; we’ve only done our duty.”

I have no rights, and no entitlements.

When I wake in the morning to serve my family until I lay my head on my pillow at night (sometimes multiple times at night), I have no rights. No entitlements. When my daughter has a febrile seizure one night and pneumonia the rest of the week in the midst of my terrible morning sickness, I don’t get to indulge in hour long breaks thinking “I deserve this.” I need to come to completely embrace that my real rest and reward sits at the right hand of the Father in Heaven, and that is more than I could ever imagine.

As a friend of mine pointed out to me this morning, a slave waits on his/her master continually. Even when there seems to be breaks, she is on alert, knowing that she would be called to duty at any time. When my girl is taking her nap and I’m sitting enjoying some quiet time, I know I still have to be “on call” in case she walks out with a wet diaper or her dry cough keeps waking her. Nevermind the fact that in the midst of writing this post, I have been interrupted more times than I can count.

The doule [feminine form of the Greek word for slave] knows that any break or rest she gets is a blessing and a privilege in this life and it’s called grace. Glorious grace!

My offended heart so quickly forgot that though I am a slave, I am a slave to Christ. The Christ. I was purchased and now am owned by Jesus whose blood redeemed me from oppressive slavery to sin and the law. The same Christ who preached  “take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your selves. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” in Matthew 11:28-30. The same Christ who Himself descended from Heaven, made himself to become nothing, becoming a slave, coming to serve and not be served, modeling to us what it means to perfectly submit to the wishes of his Master.

This Jesus is the good, kind, and loving master. He doesn’t abuse his power but instead showers us with privileges beyond our own selfish expectations in the midst of our duty.

Murray J. Harris comments profoundly, “It is Christ’s voluntary role as God’s doulos [bond-servant] that prevents the Christian’s slavery from being a distasteful experience and makes it a privilege and honour.”

Much like being a mom, right?

I want to end my thoughts with the words by someone else more experienced and wise on the topic of motherhood and entitlements. Lisa-Jo Baker in her recent blog post this Mother’s Day, writes:

Entitlement believes that we know best, deserve the best, and resents the rest who don’t deliver.

Entitlement takes the sacrifice of motherhood and spins it in dizzying, disorienting circles.

Motherhood bends. Entitlement demands.
Motherhood serves. Entitlement stomps its foot.
Motherhood delights. Entitlement keeps lists.
Motherhood laughs. Entitlement whines.
Motherhood celebrates. Entitlement sulks.
Motherhood forgets itself in favor of remembering her dimple, his fastest mile, their mouths all ringed around with chocolate.

Entitlement tastes bitterness in every bite of a day that doesn’t go as planned.

And that is my prayer. I pray that as I celebrate the freedom, honor, privileges and joy I have in being a child and heir of God, sister and co-heir with Christ, I will mother my children and serve my husband with the humility and Christ-like duty of a servant and slave of God. Because that is what I’ve been called to and it is a privilege to do.

“I am a good-for-nothing slave, but O’ how marvelous is my Master!”

Sarah is a wife to a wonderful missionary husband, Kevin, and grateful mother to Adalia and a baby boy due in October. As a family, they are currently immersed in language and culture acquisition on an island in South East Asia with the goal of serving remote unreached people groups. Their chronicles as a family can be followed at their blog The Cooney Tribe. They are commissioned by To Every Tribe and New Hyde Park Baptist Church in Long Island, New York. 

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Note from Lis: I approached Sarah because not only is she a mom to a young child and pregnant with her second, but she is doing this journey while serving as a missionary in a foreign country!  Her posts on Facebook are always so encouraging to me and I really wanted to tap into where she drew her strength from as I could not imagine how difficult it is to walk this road when you leave everything you know behind.  Thank you for sharing, Sarah.  You blessed me greatly!

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What Maple Syrup Taught Me About Motherhood: Guest Post

I am so excited to feature my first guest poster for my “Celebrate Motherhood” series.  It’s been a crazy week, to say the least, but I’m so glad I reached out to these other moms to help me share about this crazy–but beautiful–journey called motherhood.

As I mentioned in the introduction post, I approached moms in different stages of motherhood to try to appeal to a wide array of readers who might be in different stages themselves.  The idea shifted to being one of simply asking these moms to share whatever story was on their heart, but I’ll still explain why I approached each one.

Marilette’s husband and I used to work together.  Since then I’ve followed their journeys in ministry and in the time that Marilette has had her own blog.  She is a gifted writer and the mom to two young children.  I wondered how a young mom such as herself balanced these two young babes while she was young herself?  When I read her story after she submitted it to me, I cried.  BECAUSE I SO RELATE.

There’s much more I can write, but without further delay, I encourage you to read Marilette’s words:

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syrupAs an adult, I’ve balanced being a full-time college student, a volunteer for a high school ministry, and a retail employee for 30+ hours. I’ve held two internships and two part-time jobs simultaneously. Yet, never have I felt more overwhelmed and powerless than at my most current career choice. My current job? Being a mommy of two.

A few weeks ago, after a long night of nursing and rocking my newborn Eliana, I was an exhausted, irritable mess. I was flipping pancakes, while bouncing a crying Eliana who was strapped onto me by a baby carrier. Keeping clutter at bay seemed impossible as my 23-month-old Jeremiah threw around the dish towels I had just folded neatly in a drawer. As I unstrapped Eliana to start breastfeeding her, Jeremiah grabbed and spilled the (expensive!) maple syrup, making the floor nasty and sticky. I soon found myself raising my voice at Jeremiah, anger and annoyance welling up within me.

Looking back, the above scenario seems kind of humorous. But in moments like those, I get so aggravated. Verses like 1 Corinthians 9:27 seem impossible to put into action–“But I discipline my body and bring it into submission, lest when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.”

As I’ve studied this verse in my personal bible study, I’ve observed a couple of things. The Greek term for “submission” means to treat something as a slave i.e. with severity, subject to stern and rigid discipline. In other words, my body is my slave; I am not a slave to my body. I tell my body what to do, and not the other way around.

Since becoming a mom of an energetic toddler and a restless newborn, I’ve found it especially difficult to not allow my body to dictate my moods and my actions. It’s been so easy to play the victim card, and to justify my sin of lacking patience and being quick to become angry. My logic: “I’m tired, therefore I’m allowed to be irritable.” I’ve let my body (my tiredness) to affect my mood, and I’ve allowed myself to sin and get impatient and angry at my children. Too bad God also said: “Do all things without grumbling or disputing” (Philippians 2:14). I have no excuse.

Since that incident with the maple syrup, it’s been my prayer that as a mom, I become more aware of my tendency to allow myself to be a slave to my body.

Thankfully, God is gracious. Whenever I slip up, He reminds me that this is a process. I’m not going to get over this overnight. Patience will only come as I work through these emotions in the midst of the things that test me, as I memorize Scripture and then recite it at the opportune time.

God reminds me that I am not a victim, but I am “more than a conqueror” with Christ on my side (Romans 8:37). Since He has allowed me to be a parent, He believes I can do this whole parenting thing! God reminds me that this season of life (being a mom to a toddler and a newborn) is just a transitional time that will soon pass, and to give myself the grace and the space to figure this all out. He reminds me that I can lean on and trust in Him, and that He will give me the strength, energy and ability when I am lacking.

Someone once said (paraphrased): “God gives us children not so we can raise them, but so that He can raise us.” In only two short years of motherhood, I’ve already found this to be true.

Marilette is a full-time missionary with Cru High School (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ), wife to Moses and mommy to Jeremiah and Eliana. She recently founded her blog Marilettesanchez.com: The Intersection of God, Relationships & Pop Culture. Her goal is to bridge the gap between biblical truth, scholarly research and the pop culture discussion on God, relationships and fame.

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May: A Month of Celebrating Motherhood

I am so excited for the month of May.

A couple of weeks ago, I was going over a list I have of scripture verses to pray for your child.  There are thirty-one verses, so it’s easy to focus on one per day during the months that have thirty-one days. This card was one of the best things I received at the last school I worked for. If you think your church would be interested in distributing this card, you can buy it in bulk here, but I also found someone who recreated the card in a printable format.

I started thinking about this card and a comment my husband often asks me about Facebook: “What’s the point of having one?”  I’m always quick to respond that I use Facebook to keep in touch with my family, to share our funny stories (I love to make people laugh), but mostly to encourage others.  I really believe that while some want to see the negatives of social media, there are those–like me–who want to use it to share life with others.  The good and the bag; the beautiful and the ugly.  I love to share stories of hope I find on the internet, a verse, a song…whatever I believe in my heart can possibly make someone else’s day better.

As I mulled over the question though for some time, a thought entered my mind–why not put my words into better action?  Meaning, if I really believe that I’m using Facebook to encourage others, how can I be even more intentional with that?

So I decided that during the month of May, I would type one virtue per day on Facebook to encourage parents to pray for their children.

The idea did not end there.  I’m not sure if it was later in the day or the next one, but I couldn’t shake this feeling that there was something more.  And I do believe it was God Himself who placed this idea on my heart–

I wanted to encourage mothers scientifically.  May is the month we celebrate these marvelous women–not just the ones who have biological children, but any woman who is a caregiver to children–and I just know how much encouragement moms need.  Why do I know this?  Because I need it every day myself.  I also read other blogs, I attend a ladies Bible study, and I read books on motherhood and that’s enough for me to know how needed it is.  We moms can get really down on ourselves.  I just finished writing a message to someone where I stated I wonder more often than not just how badly I’m messing my child up.  I feel like I fail daily.

But here’s the thing.  I know many moms who have walked this road before me, and I want to glean from them.  Also in my life, I have moms with children younger than mine or who are just entering the world of motherhood and I want to be an example to them.  I want to share MY story, so in those desperate moments they will remember they are not alone.  You are never alone, moms!

And so God put this special project on my heart.  In the busyness of life, I procrastinated but I could not let it go and I knew I would regret it if I did not pursue it.  So I did.  I approached many mothers to ask if they would share their stories on this blog.

Originally, I approached women in different mothering “stages”.  I wanted a variety that would appeal to the different kinds of moms that might be reading.  As I spoke more and more about this project; however, I realized I did not want to place these moms in just “one” niche.  I simply wanted them to share their stories.  Because whatever their story is, they are a mom…and it will be beautiful.

Not everyone I approached replied or was able to participate, but I trust the nine ladies I have scheduled to share this month are the ones God had planned all along.  I hope to continue this project every May, to give all the amazing moms in my life a chance to share.

In the future, this project will definitely be better laid out.  Because, here we are on May 5 and I am just starting it when the plan was to kick off on May 1.  As I wrote in a group message to the contributors, that seems to be the theme of motherhood anyway: GRACE!

I have been tired and busy and some days my biggest accomplishment is that I was able to make it out of bed.  But I am glad that although it’s off to a slow start, I will get this done.  I know this is something God wants me to see through (because I often have ideas but little follow through) and I can’t wait to look back over this month and see all that has been accomplished.

So stay tuned!  In addition to hearing from other moms this month on A Life Well Done, I’ll be sharing my own mothering stories and there will also be a giveaway!

Whether you are a mom already or waiting to become one, I pray this series will encourage you.  More than anything, I want you to be encouraged in your walk and strengthened in your journey.

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P.S.  I’ll be popping in to share the Biblical Virtue of the day to pray over your child.  Some days I’ll blog about the verse; other days it will be just to post the theme and verse.  Since we’re already supposed to be on day 5, let’s catch up!

Day 1: Salvation

“Lord, let salvation spring up within my children, that they may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory” (Is. 45:8, 2 Tim. 2:10).

Day 2: Growth in grace

“I pray that my children may grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).

Day 3: Love

“Grant, Lord, that my children may learn to live a life of love, through the Spirit who dwells in them” (Gal. 5:25, Eph. 5:2).

Day 4: Honesty and integrity

“May integrity and honesty be their virtue and their protection” (Ps. 25:21).

Day 5: Self-control

“Father, help my children not to be like many others around them, but let them be alert and self-controlled in all they do” (1 Thess 5:6).

Five.

I find myself feeling the need to come on here and write when I’m feeling a bit…melancholy.  I suppose that’s the word.  I thought about that this morning; how this blog is not a reflection then of how I am in “real” life–the girl with a constant smile on her face.  I’ve noticed the tone around these parts has been a bit serious and that may be the season I am in.  But this will be the last post of that sort, at least for a short while.

I am so excited for the month of May and what I’ll be sharing on this blog.  Be sure to check back tomorrow for a post where I will explain!  For now though…

Today’s been a bit rough.  May 1 is a bit rougher as I explained in this post last year.  But it all started on April 30 and that’s where my mind has been all day.

Five years ago I experienced a miscarriage.  I’ve processed the event enough to know it is not the worst thing in the world that can possibly happen to a person, and, yet, it hurts.  You know?  This date is etched in my mind and I woke up remembering that five years ago it was a normal morning.  By mid-afternoon, I knew my world was changing.

I’ve done a lot of reading on miscarriages since that time and I appreciate each and every word I have read from other women that have gone through it.  You don’t wish that pain on anyone and yet you are comforted to know you are not alone.  The thing about miscarriage is that it is forgotten by everyone, pretty much…except you.  No one would know the grief I carry in my heart today unless I told them.  No one asks.  No one follows up.  No one brings meals.

And I’m not putting that responsibility on anyone.  Again, there is SO much else happening to people who need help, and rightly so that they should be the ones to receive the calls and cards and meals.  But the heaviness is there.  And to not express it would not be true to who I am.

I think I don’t share so much of the “happy” times on here because I see how easy it is for people to share those parts of their lives.  But I think you learn the most when people share their pains and trials.  The nitty-gritty is what propels me to seek after God.  It feels real.  I hope that when I write, people do not see it as something depressing.  Rather I hope the right person is reading and it is comforting to them to know they are not alone in whatever struggle it is they are going through.  Whether it’s a lost baby or anything else.

I am hopeful for what May will bring though.  I trust it will be a month of encouragement and finding joy in our callings.

But for today, as the rain drenches New York City, I allow the weight to bear down.

Five years have gone by quickly.  Thirteen–the number of years my hubby and I have been together as of tomorrow–even faster.

And I am grateful for all the tiny moments, good and bad, that have added up to this beautiful life I get to experience.

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The checkup.

I’ve written about a visit to an OB/GYN’s office before on a blog that, sadly, was mistakingly deleted.  I’ll go ahead an assume you’re okay with that.

But here we are again.  And, if you one of my male friends, feel free to look away now.

Yesterday I went for my “annual” checkup along with a mirage of other blood work just to see where I am with my health.

I put annual in quotations because it had been four years since I went to an OB/GYN.

Why?  Because I was embarrassed about my weight.

My former OB/GYN (and only former because we moved) was kind but always made remarks (not nasty, just observational) about my weight.  Not that he didn’t have a right to!  It just made me uncomfortable and sad.

Since I left the teaching profession and, thus, no longer needed an annual physical I have been able to avoid stepping on a scale at a doctor’s office.  Because, of course, it’s so much easier to pretend our problems do not exist.

I’m in a place now of taking control of my health (and not giving way to excuses) and so the appointment was set.

It’s funny what God will choose to use as teachable moments.  As I’m getting ready for the appointment yesterday morning, it dawned on me how the sin in my life relates to my weight.

It’s easy to try to ignore and pretend that everything is fine.  The fact remains though, the problem is still there.  And it’s hurting me.  In fact, it could kill me.

Much like avoiding doctors who I knew would tell me a truth (One I already know, mind you!), I avoid telling my brothers and sisters in Chris of sin issues in my life. I avoid confessing it to God–a truth HE knows.

I do not have to step on a scale to know there is a problem.  And I act like that toward sin–if I don’t say it out loud; if I don’t think about it…it does not mean God doesn’t know.  Because, duh, he does.

It does not even have to be about sin.  Perhaps it’s an emotional struggle or sadness or a difficult choice that needs to be made.  The choice not to talk about it in order to not have to face being told what to do or have a wrong way of thinking pointed out is no different that the avoidance of stepping on a scale because I’m afraid of what I will see.

But I no longer want to be afraid.  I want to step fully into the promises that I have been told.

And so I stepped on a scale yesterday and was pleasantly surprised at how far I have come since my heaviest weight.  It felt good to see that lifestyle changes in regards to food and exercise have been, albeit slowly, paying off.

…for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. ~1 Timothy 4:8 ESV

While it is a great thing to remember my body is a temple that houses the Holy Spirit and therefore knowing what I put into it is important, it will never be more important than my spiritual growth. Physical exercise, the number that appears on a scale, and the inches I lose will never outweigh the importance of spiritual discipline and striving for a pure heart.  I can exercise my brains out, but if I’m not putting even more time into reading my Word and building on my relationship with Christ it will all be for naught.  After all, what will matter more when I stand before Him?

Yes, physical checkups are of great importance, but the spiritual checkups of my heart hold far greater–eternal–value.

I can look at the past decade and see the “weight I’ve lost” spiritually.  It is not a pride I take in myself, because I know I did not do it.  It is all of grace; I am such a different person than I was.

But I see the areas that still need work and a heart that has so much further to go.

I will no longer be afraid of physical checkups because the scale does not define me.

I will no longer be afraid to share my spiritual shortcomings because those failures do not define me either.

He does.

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