Excerpt for Raising Girls: Diaper to Diamond by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Raising Girls



Jessie Seneca

Raising Girls

Diaper to Diamond


Copyright © 2017 Jessie Seneca

ISBN 978-1-938796-31-9 ebook

ISBN 978-1-938796-30-2 paperback

Library of Congress Control Number: 2017945516

Religion, Christian Life, Personal Growth


Published by Fruitbearer Publishing, LLC

P.O. Box 777, Georgetown, DE 19947

302.856.6649 • FAX 302.856.7742

www.fruitbearer.cominfo@fruitbearer.com


Content edited by Connie Rinehold

Copyedited by Melissa Peitsch, Fran D. Lowe

Cover design by Kelly Vanek, Cassidy Communications, Inc.

Interior design by Candy Abbott


Unless otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible (NASB), Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.


Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright © 2000; 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


Scripture quotations marked (MSG) are taken from The Message, copyright © 1993. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.


Scripture quotations marked (NAB) are taken from the New American Bible. Copyright © 1970 by the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C., and are used by permission of copyright owner. All rights reserved.


Scripture quotations marked (NET) are taken from The NET Bible®, New English Translation. Copyright © 1996 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved.


Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from The HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. All rights reserved.


Scripture quotations marked (TLB) are taken from the Living Bible, copyright © 1971. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, IL 60189 USA. All rights reserved.


All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or any other—except for brief quotations in printed reviews, without the prior permission of the publisher or author, except as provided by USA copyright law.

To my loving husband and daughters

John, Lauren, and Sarah

There wouldn’t be a story without you.

You fill my life with love, laughter, and joy.

You are my life.


Preface



Welcome, Mom! This is a safe place for you.

My desire is to pour into you by sharing insights, struggles, and accomplishments with you as you walk through this journey called motherhood. Together, we will hit some hard topics in each chapter and read excerpts of practical tips from respected women I have interviewed. In addition, each chapter has an Action Step to help guide your next step. Please understand that I do not claim to have all the answers and, for that matter, have not done it all right. I am just like you—desiring to develop my girls into responsible young adults as I continue my quest toward friendship with them. As I wrote, this question was always at the forefront of my mind: What do I wish I could tell the younger me? Hindsight is 20/20 vision. All that I have learned, is yours. I so wish I could sit across from each one of you reading this book to hear your questions, listen to your struggles, and rejoice with your accomplishments. I know this is impossible, so we are going to start an online Facebook group to keep an ongoing dialogue. Join our group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/270738280018794/.

This book would be perfect for a small-group setting comprising young moms and an older mentor mom. Each chapter is accompanied by discussion questions and a Mentor Moment to help assist discussion.

But don’t fret. If you desire, you can read this book all by yourself while enjoying a good cup of your favorite beverage.

It is my honor and great pleasure to give you all that I have and guide you where you have not trod, teaching you His ways and encouraging you to walk in a manner worthy of your calling (Ephesians 4:1).

Let’s do this thing called motherhood—from one sister to another.


XOXO


Foreword

by Arlene Pellicane



I’ve noticed in life there are two kinds of people—“Tell me more” people and “I already know that” people. The “Tell me more” person picks up a book like this and says, “I do know a thing or two about raising daughters, but I’m sure there’s something else I could learn!” The “I already know that” person picks up the same book and says, “If I don’t have it figured out by now, it’s never gonna happen. These parenting books don’t really help.” See the difference?

When my oldest daughter, Noelle, was about three years old, she had a funny response to her older brother’s frequent advice. He was the big man on campus (kindergarten, that is). She’d quickly reply, “I already know that” in a smug tone. That’s cute and clever when you’re three, but it’s not very endearing as an adult. For us moms, the attitude of “I already know that” is toxic. It shores up our defenses and keeps our hearts closed off from true transformation. As you encounter concepts in this book, don’t default to “I already know that.” Instead, think, “Tell me more.”

I love talking with moms who are ahead of me in the parenting journey. I always want to ask them questions such as these: How did you remain close through the years? How did you deal with friends who weren’t the best influence? What did you do to prepare for the empty-nest years? What do you wish you would have known? My friend, Jessie Seneca, has two beautiful adult daughters who have a wonderful relationship with her. Jessie serves as the ideal guide to tell us more about raising daughters from diaper to diamond.

In the day-to-day responsibilities of providing meals, putting away laundry, and driving to activities, you can easily become desensitized to the wonder of motherhood. Some days feel very monotonous, while others are crazy busy. What’s so marvelous about packing lunches, buying Pull-Ups, rushing to soccer practice, helping with homework, or doing dishes? Yet several years ago, you were probably praying fervently, hoping for a baby girl. And look, here you are with one (or two, or three). If you travel a few years forward in your mind, your girl may be all grown up, taking her driver’s license exam, and preparing college applications. Ah, then you may wistfully remember the days of packing lunches for your little girl.

C. S. Lewis writes in Prince Caspian, “Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back, everything is different?” My heart beats fast and my stomach feels topsy-turvy when I imagine my elementary school daughters leaving for college or walking down the aisle as brides. When I get to that stage of parenting, I want to repeat what Jessie’s husband whispered in her ear when their oldest daughter received her college diploma: “I have no regrets.” (You’ll read all about it in Chapter Four.)

What a comfort to know that as you follow God’s Word in raising your daughters, you will be able to look back with contentment and gratitude. The diaper stage doesn’t last forever, but the spiritual investment you make in your daughter’s life will.


—Arlene Pellicane, speaker and author of
31 Days To Becoming a Happy Mom

Table of Contents



Preface

Foreword

Chapter One: You Be the Difference

Chapter Two: It’s Not All About Me

Chapter Three: Perfection vs. Excellence

Chapter Four: It Takes Two

Chapter Five: It Takes More Than Two

Chapter Six: Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

Chapter Seven: Ladylikeness

Chapter Eight: Sweet & Sassy

Chapter Nine: Mean Girls and the Middle Years

Chapter Ten: He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not

Chapter Eleven: De-parenting . . .

Chapter Twelve: A Lasting Legacy

Chapter Thirteen: Diaper to Diamond

Reflective Questions

Notes

Meet the Author

Jessie’s Other Books

Order Info

Chapter One
You Be the Difference



Be diligent to present yourself approved to God
as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.
(2 Timothy 2:15)


Nellisa, the same friend who encouraged me to write Friendship: Sisters for a Journey, came to me only days after it was published and said, “I have your next book.”

I said, “I need a breather; okay, what is it?”

From her lips to my ears came these words, “A book on parenting.”

My response was, “Why does God tell you and not me?” So, for months I put it out of my mind while trying to write a different book altogether. I even started the first chapter, but I felt this nudge from God to set that book down and begin this one.

Believe me when I say this: I am terrified of tackling this topic. I need you to know right from the get-go that I am not an expert, and I have not done it all right. I can’t give you a formula to have it all turn out pretty. Goodness, there were days I would stand water-drenched in the shower, not knowing if I was wet because of the shower head or the waterfall of tears streaming down my face as I asked God, “Can we start this whole parenting thing over again?”

I am not sure where you find yourself as you pick up this book. You could be expecting your first bundle of joy or be multiple kids into this parenting thing. Or you may be through the parenting season and find yourself praying for your adult daughter or daughter-in-law. And just for the record, you are never really out of the parenting scene. It just looks different as they leave the nest.

You may even have boys. Many of the principles I share with you through this book can be applied to both boys and girls. But I had girls, so goes the title of the book: Raising Girls: Diaper to Diamond.

No matter where you find yourself, it starts with you. You be the difference.

A lot, of what I am going to share throughout this book are things I wish I could tell the younger me. My prayer for each of you as you pick up this book is that you will read it with an open mind, heart, and spirit. Learn from me and the women I interview to help you become a better version of you through the process.

Parenting surely is not for the faint-hearted.

So, hang in there and hang on; it’s a journey.

You be the difference.

Yes, it starts with you and your relationship with God.

I began to walk with God when I was eighteen years old. After marrying my high school sweetheart, John, at twenty, I had our first daughter, Lauren, at twenty-five. The second little one, Sarah-girl, came along not even two years later. And due to an illness I battled, Cushing’s syndrome, I was discouraged from having any more children.

I wish I could say the first five years of my walk with God were ones of commitment and dedication to Him. Don’t get me wrong. I loved God and wanted to know Him deeper, but I didn’t know how to get there. I didn’t even read my Bible during those years. I knew there had to be something more to the Christian life than what I was experiencing. So, five years into my walk, I decided to call upon His name by joining a local Bible study. I couldn’t believe what I was learning. Along with growth and knowledge came conviction and dying to self.

I believe that sentence right there was the preparation for my parenting. Along with growth and knowledge came conviction and dying to self. Nothing prepared me for what lay ahead—from the drive home from the hospital, to the late-night feedings, to decisions that affected their lives.

Motherhood is a sacrificial life but so worth it.

Let’s start with the drive home after the birth of our first daughter . . .

I had driven the same roads for years, but somehow they looked very different while sitting in the back seat next to that little baby girl nestled in her car seat on a beautiful spring day in 1990. We rounded the same turns, stopped at the same stop signs, and went over familiar bumps, but this time from a different view. It wasn’t just about me anymore, but about a 8 pound 5 ounce baby girl and our growing family.

I don’t think you are ever quite ready for this life change until you are smack dab in the middle of it. Even though young moms today can prepare by reading all the mommy blogs, online articles, and books, there comes a moment when you feel paralyzed as you think about your responsibility for another person besides yourself.

If I am honest, I don’t think I thought much about parenting while I was nursing in the middle of the night or making sure she was breathing during her nap. I just wanted us to make it to the next hour, and then prepare dinner for the arrival of Daddy from a day’s work.

The parenting thing came with each new season, challenge, and success.

I so admire the young moms who intentionally think through the process before it happens. And I guess that is why I am writing this book—so I can pour into the next generation and encourage you along your journey.

Remember when I said earlier that there are things I wish I could tell the younger me? There is a song by Mercy Me, “Dear Younger Me,” that says:


Dear younger me,

Where do I start

If I could tell you everything that I have learned so far

Then you could be

One step ahead

Of all the painful memories still running through my head.

I wonder how much different things would be,

Dear younger me,

If I only knew then what I know now,

what I would have changed.


This would be a perfect world if we could go back and change some things, wouldn’t it? But sometimes we only learn through our experiences, trials, and life’s journeys. Some lessons, you have to learn on a field trip; it helps mold you into a better you.

Trusting Jesus through each trial and success gives you power, purpose, and endurance for the task set before you.

I know some memories are painful and we wish we could erase them, but we can learn from the apostle Paul since he has set an example for us and shows us the way forward. He shows us how to get right with God, forget the things that are behind, and press forward toward the goal. The secret is to know without a shadow of doubt that you have been forgiven by God. You have to take His word on this matter. He means what He says when He tells you, “I forgive you.” Never doubt this[1] (Philippians 3:13-14).

This is a portion of Scripture that will be forever at the forefront of your mind as you go through your parenting years. You will recall it and claim it over and over. It will help you move forward when you feel stale, stuck, or inadequate.

My life changed when I committed to getting into God’s Word on a daily basis. Let’s just say it was in the middle of the girls’ early years and during one of our busiest seasons of life. This was a time in my life when I thought I could rise early every morning before they did to start my devotion time, but then what seemed like minutes later, I would hear a call out for Mommy.

This may sound like your day: You awake to the sound of a toddler belting out, “Mommy! Mommy!” while impatiently rattling the bars of her crib. Before you can clear your sleepy eyes, you’re tripping over toys, changing diapers, letting the family dog out, preparing food, laundering clothes, wiping chins, and stacking dirty dishes. You’re lucky if you get a shower before noon, much less spend a quiet, meaningful hour in prayer and Bible study.[2] An hour, you say? I am happy if I even think of it.

Yes, it was hard for me to stay committed to what I felt God was calling me to do. And it will be hard for you, too.

Meet with Him every day.

Spending quality time with God may not always “look” the way you imagine it should, but it can happen. Even small chunks of time with the Lord here and there can add up to meaningful spiritual growth.

Through these small chunks of time, the Son of God revealed himself in me, and service became my everyday way of life, fully devoted to Him.

Again, you may find yourself in this very season, tired from the long, dark nights when sleep eluded you, and you dragged yourself out of bed to warm up a bottle or nestled down to nurse your daughter.

Juggling work, home, and play.

Get creative.

While feeding your little one, read the devotional you keep near your feeding chair. It might be short, but it is something to encourage you through your day.

I would read the Sunday school lesson my two-year-old brought home from church. You see, I didn’t grow up in the church, so I didn’t know the stories of Genesis, the talking donkey, or the prison doors opening at midnight. God uses anything to reveal Himself. You only need to seek Him.

And then, while she naps, continue your reading.

Oh, I know what you are thinking: there are one hundred and one things I should be doing while she naps. I vividly remember the floor calling my name to scrub it. The laundry needs folding. You need to cut out paper dolls for the Sunday school lesson you are working On . . . and the list goes on. It is a never-ending list that a twenty-four-hour day can’t hold. Although, the additional reading may only be one verse, that is okay. It is a verse that will give you strength. It is a verse you can memorize to think back on throughout your day. At least it is something. Just start.


Verna’s real-mom solution to staying in the Word when her children were young: “After my children were too old for naps, I created a quiet time for my children, and that was the time I had mine also, especially if it was interrupted in the early morning. I encourage women to know that God will honor your efforts in the time you spend with Him, no matter the amount of time, particularly when you’re a young and busy mom!”


Similarly, Linda shares, “My two girls were the oldest of four, and they were born eleven months and eleven days apart! There was little time for a quiet time, just a dash to the Upper Room and a quick prayer that often was simply ‘Help me, God’. My home was built on grabbing hold of one or two verses and tightly holding onto those truths throughout the day. I would pray what I came to call, breath prayers. God knew the growing desire in my heart to know more of Him and His Word, which He honored through small daily revelations.”


You may be a mom who works outside your home, and you can barely get out the door; but once you do, you have the half-hour commute to work. This is the perfect time to listen to a podcast, CD, or Christian radio. Some of our stay-at-home moms would kill for this half-hour alone time.

Really, it is just about being intentional to do something. Anything.

For me, it came down to reprioritizing: What’s the most important part of my day?


So teach us to number our days,

that we may present to You a heart of wisdom.

(Psalm 90:12)


Time is a gift. Every day you are given twenty-four hours. That’s 1,440 minutes. What do you do with the time you are given? How do you manage your time?

I clearly remember back to a year when my girls were in elementary school. It was a time when my days felt like they were spinning out of control and the to-do list exceeded the allotted twenty-four hours. Between the Christian school they attended, a neighborhood Bible study held in my home, a children’s program I oversaw at our church, a newly formed community Bible study I organized, plus managing our home, something had to give. And, give, it did.

My relationship with the Lord, that is.

You see, I was doing all these good things for God, but I was missing the most important part of my day—time with Him. Oh, I would walk by the chair that once occupied my early morning moments and whisper to God, “I’ll be there when…”

Sometimes, we can allow the clutter in our life to overshadow the necessity. The necessity of living close to God. When you allow your heart, mind, and soul to be captivated by your time with God, He will reveal the most important next step in your hour, day, month, and task. Let His presence bring order to your thoughts as you set aside alone time with the One who holds your days. Allow His peace to permeate a few moments of your day to bring wisdom, clarity, and direction.

The nearness of God is as close as you make it.

You make time for what is important, don’t you?

Many of us have bought into the cultural lie that a busy life is a productive life. As moms, we thrive on productivity, but it cannot be at the expense of our alone time with God. I am all for a balanced life which is what we twenty-first century women try to achieve in so many areas of our lives, but the one area that should be unbalanced is our time with God. This should be the one thing that tips the teeter-totter to the one side over all the others.


But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness,

and all these things will be added to you.

(Matthew 6:33)


I know the early years sometimes seem like they may last forever, but they don’t. Eventually, the children grow up. You look back and it was a blink of an eye. We are only given eighteen years, maybe twenty, to rear our children. Trust me when I say that the best thing you can do for your family is to make getting into His Word a priority.


Being in God’s Word

brings the following blessings:


Guidance to walk through your day (Psalm 119:105).

Strength beyond your own power (Psalm 119:28).

Wisdom to handle what is set before you (Psalm 119:100).

Lifting of your burdens (Psalm 119:28).

Development of peace (Psalm 119:165).

Revival (Psalm 119:93).

Enlightenment (Psalm 19:8).


My son, give attention to my words;

Incline your ear to my sayings.

Do not let them depart from your sight;

Keep them in the midst of your heart.

For they are life to those who find them

And health to all their body.

Watch over your heart with all diligence,

For from it flow the springs of life.

(Proverbs 4:20-23)


God honors and is committed to blessing those who respect and love His precious Word. It is the most valuable possession we own because it is His written message to us. From Genesis to Revelation, God reveals His mind and heart. Everything else will pass away, “but the word of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:8). The Lord is still on His throne and continues doing what He’s promised in His Word. When we believe and obey it, our lives are transformed.[3]

And because your life is transformed as a child of God, it will affect those around you. You will begin to treat others the way you want to be treated. It is a ripple effect from God to you and then to others. Please know you will not be perfect, so you will miss the mark at times. But it is worth getting back up and continuing to walk out this thing we call motherhood. So, arise and attempt to be the difference in your marriage, parenting, relationships, and daily life.

When I was speaking with a friend one day, she shared that while her kids were growing up she did not push Bible reading down their throats. Instead, she merely lived her morning routine of meeting with God in a particular chair. As her children matured, they would leave their mom little notes at her “meeting with God” chair—notes of needed prayer, an encouraging word, or just an I love you, written on a sticky note. She didn’t realize until years later that the impact her morning commitment had on her children was beyond what she could have imagined. Something that seemed ordinary, God esteemed extraordinary. Later, they shared with her that they learned more about the love of Jesus from observing her daily life than from anything else. They saw her devotion played out through her example and knew they could bring their requests to her. They knew the difference it made in her life, and they wanted the same for theirs.

Actions speak louder than words and reach further than you will ever know.

Hopefully, the following chapters will help encourage and prepare you a little better for what lies ahead and all you would like to accomplish as you raise your girls from diaper to diamond.

Action Step


*


Be intentional
to meet with God every day.

Chapter Two
It’s Not All About Me



Motherhood is a sacrificial life, but it’s so worth it.

Many years ago, I picked up Rick Warren’s newest book and latest reading craze, The Purpose Driven Life. There it was, in the very first sentence: “It’s not about you.”

He went on to say in the first chapter that the purpose of your life is far greater than your own personal fulfillment, your peace of mind, or even your happiness. It’s far greater than your family, your career, or even your wildest dreams and ambitions. If you want to know why you were placed on this planet, you must begin with God. You were born by His purpose and for His purpose; you cannot arrive at your life’s purpose by starting with the focus on yourself. You must begin with God, your Creator. You exist only because God wills that you exist—and until you understand that, life will never make sense. It is only in God that we discover our origin, identity, meaning, purpose, significance, and destiny. Every other path leads to a dead end.[4]

Matthew 16:26 from The Message states it like this: “Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for?”

Wow, I have to admit, reading this was not a total shock, but it rattled me a little.

Really, it’s not about me?

My next thought was, Then who is it about?


Laura shares, “Sometimes, it feels like all that I am as a mother is one huge sacrifice. I wonder when the blessings for my sacrifice will come, but is that something Christ has ever actually promised? Will my sacrifice ever be noticed? Do I sacrifice because I long to hear those famous words, ’They will rise up and call me blessed?’ Is that the motive for all that I do?


However, when I find it in myself to overcome the flesh and dive into the Spirit, my perspective shifts. I’m reminded in Psalm 50:23a that the ultimate goal is to honor and bless Christ, not me—but giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors Him. The call on our lives as Christians is to glorify God in all we do, even though that mantra is hard, it is worth it. For I look forward to the moment when I stand before my Savior and hear Him say my name, place that crown on my head, and say, ‘Oh Laura, you have shared My name with your daughters whom I have entrusted to you. Because of your sacrifice, many future generations have come to know My love and sacrifice on the cross for them.’


My ability to remember God’s call on my life is by serving my girls through sacrifice is so important because that sacrifice ultimately points to our loving Savior. This, this is what glorifies my God.”


Ana writes: “While it’s true I have had to sacrifice some of my own personal interests in support of a husband who was building his career, I never once stopped to think about myself first. In the end, I know that the sacrifices I was making were nothing compared to the rewards I got from focusing on my family and the life my husband was able to give us. I believe a few short-term sacrifices will always lead to long-term peacefulness.”


It all starts with God. It’s about living for Him, not yourself. We should ask ourselves, What is the motive behind what I do? Is it for my glory or is it for God’s glory?


For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire (1 Corinthians 3:11-15).


Yes, we want to raise our girls to be strong, disciplined, brave, and secure.


But you will miss the mark, if you don’t teach them where it is all derived from.


God.


Everything got started in Him
and finds its purpose in Him.
(Colossians 1:16b MSG)


So, what does this mean for you as a mommy?

We established in Chapter One that you need to be the difference. This is not contradictory to what I am saying in this chapter, but complementary—because if you don’t take the initiative to spend time with your heavenly Father and His Word, you will receive meaningless direction from what the world tells you.


The world won’t tell you:


Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13 ESV).


Count others more significant than yourself. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others (Philippians 2:3-4 ESV).


Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. (Romans 12:1 ESV).


Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant (1 Corinthians 13:4 ESV).


By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers (1 John 3:16 ESV).


He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8 ESV).


These truths go against everything the world screams at us—be all that you can be; women can have it all; you are woman, hear you roar.

John and I have watched our own daughters graduate from college, and one of them received her Masters in Strategic Leadership. Both have landed full-time employment, married, and are off the payroll.

You, too, will encourage your girls to stretch themselves, strive for their goals, and dream big dreams.

But…

It can’t come at the expense of losing the reality of who provided it all. For James 1:17 says, Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of Lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow, Plus remind them, It is unto Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us (Ephesians 3:20).

As their mom, you will want to instill in them these truths to help them balance: life, school, work, and family.

It’s not about you and what is best for you. It’s about what is best for your current situation. It may mean stepping away from something to focus on the important task at hand—raising your children. It may be submitting to your husband on a decision, or putting off a desire for another time. Maybe God has called you to do something beyond your own strength and you learn a lesson on reliance. This is 1 John 3:16 lived out: We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. You may never be asked to lay your life down for another through death, but you may be asked to lay down your desires, dreams, demands, or decisions. In all of this, you can’t become attached to your own agenda; be attached to Jesus.

Motherhood is a sacrificial life, but it’s so worth it.

Guess what? Your kids grow up, and what you may have set on the shelf for a period of time will be there later.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying you can’t work outside your home, volunteer for a worthy cause, or find fulfillment in things outside your home. Lord knows, even as a stay-at-home mom, I didn’t eat bonbons and watch TV all day long.

But you may need to reprioritize your life.

Working moms.

Stay-at-home moms.

Homeschool moms.

Step-moms.

We all, at different times, mix up our priorities and need to revisit what’s most important. And then adjust accordingly. A daily editing, of sorts.

The prophet raises the question to the people in Haggai 1:4, How is it you live in paneled houses? That is, how do you indulge in luxury living while the Lord’s house lies in ruin? It’s not that they didn’t love the Lord; it just was not high on their priority list. The major issue was the heart of God’s people and what was priority. It was preferable for them to take care of themselves, rather than God. Haggai goes on to say, Consider your ways (Haggai 1:5 and 7).

Prioritize.

Is God’s worship a stylish life for you, or has it becomes a lifestyle—one devoted fully to Him? Do you look good on the outside while your relationship on the inside with God has spiraled out of control?

Consider your ways.

When your priorities are out of order, it moves you outside of God’s will and onto a very slippery slope.

Prioritizing is something you and your husband will need to pray about and decide what is best for your growing family.


Christine writes, “You can have it all. Pick up any women’s magazine or watch any daytime talk show, and this is often the theme. Women are taught to feel that they can have the corner office, a position they always dreamed of, a happy family waiting for them at home, and a perfect life!


I spent most of my twenties and early thirties working very hard to make my employer extremely happy. Glowing performance appraisals, promotions, travel, bonuses, and finally the job I always wanted—or at least I thought I wanted. One day, while working from home, I found a letter that my oldest daughter wrote for me, which she never intended for me to see. It detailed how she longed for me to be home with her, to spend time with her, and essentially to work as hard at being her mom as I do at work. It was like someone stabbed me in the chest—and was extremely convicting. My younger daughter would soon be five and I don’t think I was home with her in the same state for more than one week a month.


Over the next few months, God worked on me in many ways. Work was not as fun anymore. Travel was exhausting. I had a boss who was less than professional. My kids were miserable. I was struggling to keep up with my responsibilities at home. God placed an opportunity before me to be at home, but without the fancy title and corner office. I prayed and prayed about what to do until God finally showed me the answer while I read my morning devotion. You see, there is absolutely nothing more important than the job I had before me with my girls. They needed me more than any employer did, and it was my responsibility to be there for them.


I never regret making the decision I did to give up that job. I have loved every minute of being available for my girls, and God has shown me how important it is for me to be there—especially over the last several teen years. God has blessed me with a great job in which I find flexibility to be there for them when I need to. However, my job still keeps me challenged. Having it all has a new meaning for me, and it has nothing to do with power and money!”


Wow, I have had the privilege of watching this transformation happen. Christine realized the purpose of her life was far greater than her own personal fulfillment. Her desire was to please God and do what was best for her family. She didn’t stop working outside the home, but rather reevaluated the season of her life.

My story is the polar opposite of Christine’s. I worked for the first five years of our marriage, and once the children came, we decided it was best for me to be at home. I loved every minute of it. Besides the joy of being with my girls, I found fulfilling outlets outside my home—partnering through their school, volunteering with a local ministry, coordinating the girls’ program at church (four years through sixth grade), starting a neighborhood and community Bible study, organizing national womens’ events, and attending almost every sporting event my girls were involved in. These were the best years for me during that season, and I wouldn’t have wanted to be doing anything else.

Yet, I remember wondering when our oldest entered high school, What will happen when they leave the nest? Will I go back to work? What will occupy my time?—because so much of where I found myself revolved around my girls.

Here’s something I shelved for many years.

Did I think about it? Yes.

Did I seek it out? No, but there were times I wanted to.

Did I dream about the what ifs? Yes, often.

Did I want it to be about me? Sometimes.

But I came to embrace the wait.

It has not always been easy, but I acquired an appreciation for waiting.

Let me share God’s perfect timing with you through a learned lesson from my life.

I hope this personal story encourages you to know that God sees the bigger picture and

His timing is always right.

Part of this is an excerpt from my book, Friendship: Sisters for a Journey:


In 1996, while sitting in the audience listening to the speakers at a Women of Faith event in my hometown, the words of a counselor who cared for me in a psychiatric hospital for three months ran through my mind: Someday you will be sharing your experience with others.’ It was at that event I felt God calling me into a teaching/speaking ministry. I didn’t share this with anyone but my mother-in-law, who attended the conference with me. Even during my battle with Cushing’s syndrome, I knew there was more to life than ‘just’ surviving. I felt that God may use my story in a way that would encourage others. At the time it was hard to understand God’s will in it all, and even when I felt God’s call, I didn’t know what it was going to look like. Yet I still trusted Him with the outcome . . . or did I? Although I felt God’s call on my life in 1996, it was a twelve-year wait until I received my first invitation to share at another church.


Honestly, there were times I wondered why. Why God, have You not opened the door yet? But during the twelve-year preparation, I would feverishly immerse myself in God’s Word through multiple Bible studies, as well as work in various ministries. Each experience built on the previous one and prepared me for the open door God called me to enter years later. Today, I am enjoying the fruit of my obedience to embrace the wait from God through full-time ministry.


There were times I felt discouraged that God didn’t move a little faster in the process. I wanted to hurry Him along. But through a tough lesson, God wanted me to be willing to speak to one woman, not a multitude of women. You see, what God wanted and what I thought were very different. Humbled by a song I was listening to while waiting to pick up my then preschooler, God spoke to my heart, ‘Are you willing to speak to one person?’


When I finally bent my knee to His plan and became willing to speak to that one person, God began His plan, not mine. What I thought would be a call to reach multitudes, God meant for an audience of one. Likewise, at times you may wonder, Is this what God wants from me? His calling on my life seemed to take longer to develop than I anticipated. Yet, through the waiting, I came to know God in a deeper way. He showed me more about Himself, and I realized that this preparation time was necessary for this season of my life. If I had stepped ahead of God, it would have been a complete wreck. I would definitely not have been prepared.


God was at work in the unknown.

He knew that I wouldn’t be ready for this present season of my life until the girls were in college. And even with that, there were requests I turned down to be able to watch them play collegiate softball. I knew I would never get those years back. Even now, my husband coaches at the college level, and I will turn events away to be in the stands, cheering his team on.

Sacrifice is never too far away, and it looks different with each new season of your life. But He chose you, Mom, for this season of your life.

I am sure when the grandchildren arrive, there will be a whole new learning curve surrounding sacrifice.

You have probably already discovered by now that you can’t find life’s meaning by looking within yourself. You can’t find the strength to love your husband and children within yourself. You can’t turn away from temptation with your own willpower. You can’t get through the day on your own strength.

Once you stop fighting the desire to be all to all, and accept that it takes a higher power other than yourself, you win the battle. Or should I say, God wins the battle?

I have missed the mark on this myself at times, but I know that I must arise and keep fighting. Listen, I have done the same things you have done—looked in the mirror, grabbed my face and said, “Just get a grip!”

Many times, I replayed this saying in my head, “Pull up your big-girl panties!” while shooting an arrow prayer to God. “Please be with me today.”

Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4).

I promise you that God will bless your obedience to living a sacrificial life for Him when you release it to Him.

Even though Christine’s situation and mine may look very different on the surface, deep down they are the same.

It’s not about us. It’s about Him.

Motherhood is a sacrificial life.

We both needed to rely on His power, which mightily works within us (Colossians 1:29).

So, you may be asking yourself, what can one woman do?

You can look over the situation, call others together and remember the Lord, who is great and glorious, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes! (Nehemiah 4:14).

Pray for your families.

No one can do it quite like you, Mom. Stand in the gap and trust God with the outcome.

Action Step


*


Embrace sacrifice as an obedience
to God and not a hindrance.

Chapter Three
Perfection vs. Excellence



Proverbs 31


Do you, at times, feel like you are called to be perfect? Perfect in every area of your life?

The perfect height?

The perfect weight?

The perfect attitude?

The perfect home?

The perfect relationship?

Do you bring this on yourself, or do you allow others to heap it upon you?

What is the driving force behind perfectionism?

If you find yourself in the category of perfectionism, you will need to get a handle on this, or you will pass this down to your daughter, because you will not only apply perfectionist standards to yourself, but to all the other people around you.

Although you may be successful on the outside, there are times on the inside when you still feel you aren’t enough. You don’t measure up to the other moms. You always feel like you need to be strong and “in control” of your emotions, and that admitting your weaknesses or asking for help isn’t acceptable because people would think less of you.

Sometimes, putting the pressure on yourself to be perfect and live a Pinterest lifestyle, will even stop you from moving forward out of fear you may not do it well enough.

Perhaps you can relate.

One of the greatest freedoms I found while raising my girls came when I no longer allowed other moms to place their convictions on me. By convictions, I don’t mean godly beliefs but their personal preferences.

You are unique.

It may cause hardship on a friendship because you don’t act or do things exactly like your friend.

Your kids may have a bent toward athletics, but your friend’s child is more musical. Her daughter may like to wear dresses while your daughter likes to sport sweat pants and jeans. But you have to decide what is best for you and your family and not try to fit into someone else’s mold of who they think you should be.

Hopefully, you are able to accept each other’s differences and move past unnecessary expectations. But if not, the friendship may have been only for a season. Handle it with grace and move on.

Don’t feel like you have to fulfill someone else’s purpose.

There is a fine line between perfection and a healthy pursuit of excellence.

Perfectionism comes from external comparison, whereas excellence involves satisfaction of achievement that comes from within, no matter what you’ve done.[5]

Perfectionism is focused on “doing the thing ‘right,’” if others think it’s done right, and how things appear.

Excellence is about “doing the right thing.” It is focused on the reason for a task, and the results for it to be a success.[6]

Where is your focus?

Again, what you believe at your core is going to dictate your actions. Where you find your worth will drive your steps, living, and parenting style.

As I look back on my life and the younger me, I wish I was reading this book.

There was a particular season of my life when my girls were young and I was leading the Wednesday evening girl’s ministry at our church—four years old through sixth grade. I put my all into this program.

Therein lay the problem: my all.

It was all about what I could do. What I could accomplish. What I could complete.

It was on a weekend retreat with peers and those who organized the national ministry. While we shared our challenges in a small group, the founder of the ministry brought the conversation to a complete halt. She called me out, and call me out she did. She said, “Jessie, if you keep this up, you are going to burn out.” What she didn’t know was that I was already feeling burned out. Or did she?

I couldn’t keep going at the pace I was going without help, so I humbled myself in front of my colleagues and asked for help. The help began by allowing the other women to come alongside me, pray for me, and then give me steps to accomplish what needed to happen. I was encouraged to go back home and implement delegation and trust into every aspect of my life, including my home, relationships, and ministry. Andrew Carnegie’s quote, “It marks a big step in your development when you come to realize that other people can help you do a better job than you could do alone,” is so true. When you grasp this, your days will become manageable and your work lighter.

It will no longer be what you can do, but what He can do through you.

There is a big difference in doing work for God and doing work with God. Invite Him into your parenting and watch Him work.

For [you] can do all things through Christ who strengthens [you] (Philippians 4:13).

There is a positive woman we can look to with great admiration and view as an example of right living. Some may say, “There is no way one woman can be all that.

She is the perfect woman.”

But I say that we can aspire to be the Proverbs 31 woman. She is a woman who strives for excellence in every area of her life.

Being a Proverbs 31 woman is not about being perfect. It’s about living life with purpose.

My dear friend, Sally, once told me, “The Proverbs 31 woman is not about how much she is doing, but about what and why she is doing the doing.”

The Proverbs 31 woman lives a very intentional life.

I do not bring her up to make us feel less than adequate, but as an example we can strive toward—one we can aspire to be.

A woman of valor is powerful because of her relationship with her Creator. This does not mean that she is powerful in her own strength. To be the Proverbs 31 woman, you will need to reach deep within and rely on the power of the Holy Spirit. If you need more power today, ask Him for it.


If you then, being evil,

know how to give good gifts to your children,

how much more will your heavenly Father give

the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?

(Luke 11:13)


The Proverbs 31 woman has been described as: excellent (NASB), noble (NIV), virtuous (KJV), capable (HCSB), and worth more than diamonds (MSG).


Description of a Worthy Woman


(Proverbs 31:10-31)



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