Guilt vs. Grace: Battling the Never-ending Voices of Motherhood

Last night when I was picking up my 3 and 4 year old from Awana, before I could realize it, they darted out into the church parking lot. I yelled at them to “Stop!” and was fuming with anger. Headlights beamed and cars were making their way out.

I ran as fast as I could to grab them. Other kids were watching my kids in their disobedience. I rebuked them and disciplined them for not listening to Mommy. My heart beat fast as we made our way home and I told them they were in big trouble.

After the incident, I beat myself up pretty bad about what could’ve been done differently. Did I not do a good job at telling them what to expect? Do they need more discipline? (yes, always!) I was embarrassed. I prayed and cried and honestly just felt like a failure. I already have major anxiety with my kids in parking lots and streets.

You see, it is this subtle voice after a long day’s work of child-rearing, managing daily responsibilities, making sure the wheels on the house are running smoothly, disciplining defiant children, and more, that says:

You’re not good enough. You’re not the mom you should be. Your kids are a reflection of you. When will you get it together?

The voice of guilt. The voice of condemnation. It’s a cunning voice that sneaks into the cracks of unexpected places with the potential to freeze me from doing anything worthy. Now don’t get me wrong. Guilt can be a very good thing – to show us our offense and to make us keenly aware of our need for repentance. In this situation however, it was a false guilt.

It took my eyes off Jesus and his ability to carry me, and had me focusing on myself, my weaknesses, my struggles, and my incapabilities. It took my eyes off gratitude and filled my heart with negativity, self-pity, and depression. I never once thought of the blessing that I could run fast enough to catch them!

Lisa Terkeurst says,

Learn to be more thankful for what you are than guilty for what you’re not. Cut the threads of guilt with grace.

Grace- God’s unmerited favor, goodwill, and loving-kindness toward us as imperfect sinners. Grace says that God is for us. He loves us and wants to teach us a better way to live. He’s not angry and waiting for us to get our act together, but he is patient and guides us as our loving Father.

  • In the name of grace, there is no condemnation or a constant beating over the head. “There is now therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” – Romans 8:1 
  • In the name of grace, there is no fear in His perfect love. “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. – 1 John 4:18 
  • In the name of grace, God is sanctifying and purifying us to be holy. “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 1:6

I don’t know if you’ve felt the grip of guilt on your heart but may I encourage you to let God take it off of your chest – just for today? Don’t worry about tomorrow. Allow him to shower you with his grace in your present situation. His love for you is not contingent on what you do or don’t do as a mom.

And the way your children behave at times that’s out of your control? That doesn’t mean you’re a bad mom nor is that where your identity is found.

The voice of guilt and the voice of grace are always at odds, battling it out with each other on a daily basis. As you begin to listen to them more and see them for what they are, you will see that the voice of grace is always greater.

It is the voice of freedom.

Striving in grace with you,

Samantha

Samantha Krieger is a wife, mother, and writer in rural Colorado. She is the author of the new devotional for moms: Quiet Time: A 30-day Devotional Retreat for Moms in the Trenches.

 

 

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The One Thing You Probably Need Most Today

It is often at the end of the day, where I feel most attacked in motherhood. Satan whispers lies: You’re not doing this right. You’re going to screw up your kids. You’re unqualified. You’ll never overcome the anger, control, pride, and more. You don’t have what it takes.

Lately, I’ve been realizing that this is all a very works-based mentality. That if I could just “do” more and be “better” as a wife and mom, then the path will be straight and God will love me.

Oh, but this is far from the truth because it leaves out one word out that I desperately need daily:

G R A C E

Grace comes to us as God’s undeserving gift and kindness. It is not something we earn or have to work hard for. It is not something that if we just get our act together, the odds will be in our favor. It is not conditional as to whether we meet a certain standard of righteousness. It is not how we often treat our children: If you do this, then I will love you. If not, then you have fallen short of my standard and I will like you less.

Another word for grace is also mercies. His mercies are new each and every day. The slate is wiped clean. I don’t know about you, but that is good news.

In Lamentations 3, the prophet Jeremiah was under intense affliction, wandering, and pain. He says, “My soul is downcast within me” (vs. 20). Yet in the next verse he reveals, “Yes this I call to mind and therefore I have hope” (vs. 21) – the steadfast love of the Lord is what spurs him on in the midst of trouble.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lam 3:22-23)

Because of God’s unwavering, unconditional, steadfast love, we won’t drown in despair. When we end the day feeling battle-worn, wondering if the morning will be any different, we have great hope because his grace and mercy toward us are always moving in strength, like a raging waterfall – regardless of how well we have done. We can trust him to carry us in the deepest of valley’s, brokenness, and suffering. Because that is what our Father does for his children.

Because his great love for you never ceases, his grace doesn’t either. Grab hold of it today – knowing He has covered your guilt, shame, dissatisfaction, self-sufficiency, self-loathing, and more. He has covered the lies that tempt you. He will give you what you need just for this very moment.

Most of all, let his grace and love captivate your heart unlike anything else in your life.

Questions for Reflection: Is there anything in your life you feel God could never forgive? How can you better cling tight to his grace, instead of a works-based acceptance mindset?

I was lost
I was in chains
The world had a hold of me

My heart was a stone
I was covered in shame
When He came for me

I couldn’t run, couldn’t run from His presence
I couldn’t run, couldn’t run from His arms

Jesus, He loves me, He loves me, He is for me
Jesus, how can it be, He loves me, He is for me

(“Jesus Loves Me” by Chris Tomlin)

 

Samantha Krieger is a wife, mother, and writer in rural Colorado. She is the author of the new devotional for moms: Quiet Time: A 30-day Devotional Retreat for Moms in the Trenches.

 

 

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The Love Song {That Changes Everything}

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Last night, my husband and I had one of those out of the ordinary evenings where we stayed up late in bed together talking, reminiscing about our college and dating days, and how we were so thankful God gave us one another when we least expected it. We reflected on our wedding day and all that led up to it.

“It’s kind of sad… we never really had a song,” Jeremiah said.

I thought about it for a minute and it was kind of sad.

“We just chose one because we had to for our first dance,” he said.

He was right. We dated for seven months and were engaged for six. Everything happened so fast. I thought about the beautiful song we chose (or that he let me choose!), “When You Say You Love Me” by Josh Groban and some of the words in it:

“And this journey that we are on. How far we’ve come and I celebrate every moment. And when you say you love me, that’s all you have to say. I’ll always feel this way…”

Our wedding day was just the beginning of our journey together. We weren’t that “far” into it yet. Like our vows, we didn’t fully understand the words of that song or that a day might come when we’d be tempted to throw in the towel. That there might be a day when our burning, unquenchable love wouldn’t “always feel this way.”

“I think the journey we’ve been on is our song,” I told Jeremiah. “It tells the real story better than any mere love song could. Plus, our song is still being written.”

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The journey of our marriage sings the song that no matter what, through thick and thin, we are committed to one another and will fight for our marriage. We will persevere through adversity because we promised, “Until death do us part” to God and to our loved ones.

The lyrics over our last nine years tell a story of lost dreams, disappointments, job promotions, job losses, accidents, lessons learned, poor communication, passion, romance, pursuit, isolation, intimacy struggles, financial pressure, adventure,  forgiveness, reconciliation, suffering, unconditional love, friendship, unmet expectations, unexplainable joy, and more.

Our relationship has been filled with mountain tops and valleys. Marriage is a battlefield, not always the bed of roses we often dream of. It’s more about strapping up your boots and putting on your armor to fight against your flesh and sinful nature.

Our nine years of marriage have told a story of our sin exposed to the bone, but also of unconditional love, acceptance, and grace – where we have seen our Savior’s love shine brighter than the love we share. We’ve experienced a Savior who sought us in our messy sin – who didn’t wait for us to clean up.

We know a Savior whose blood was shed for our freedom and righteousness. We worship a Savior who has rescued us out of darkness and into light and who is restoring and making all things new.

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We live for a Savior, Jesus Christ, God’s son, who has reconciled us to himself – not because of anything we have done but because of everything He has done. We surrender to a Savior who cares deeply for our relationship so that His song would be a melody for others to join in and be inspired by. So that ultimately others would know what His love is really like.

Patient. Forgiving. Sacrificial. Gentle. Kind. Humble. Selfless. Strong. True. Perfect. Enduring. Everlasting. And so much more.

The truth is that we’ve always had a song – the song of redemption. It was lived out as two imperfect young lovers anticipating the day we would say “I do.” It’s been lived out every year we’ve tried to love the best we know how, yet still come up so short. It has met us in our biggest fights and shameful behaviors. It sings louder than all other songs written by human, finite hands.

This song of redemption – Christ’s rescuing and restoring of broken people back to Himself – is for every marriage to behold and know personally. It is far greater than any song shared solely between two lovers because it invites others to share its glory and splendor.

It changes everything. And it is yours to sing too.

Grace, Life, & Finding Order in the Chaos


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This past week has been difficult. All my kids were sick, we were up multiple times a night, I caught a stomach bug, had multiple pediatrician appointments, dealt with overwhelming (think rip your hair out) demands in motherhood, and had a flat tire.

It never ceases to amaze me how much I begin to “get ahead,” as in things are feeling somewhat smooth and then conflict and major struggle comes on the scene out of nowhere. In these times it’s so tempting to throw in the towel and quit. To not read my Bible, to be short with those I love, to complain, to say “why me?,” to take a few extra bites of that chocolate than I should, to blame, to be angry, to isolate, and to be undisciplined all around.

Discouragement settles in and spiritual attack is difficult to overcome especially being sleep deprived.

Thank goodness, Sunday rolled around and John Piper preached at our church and Phil Wickham led us in worship. They were both helping lead the Linger Conference here in Dallas. Piper preached beautifully on God’s grace and the theme of grace was also interwoven in Wickham’s songs. These lyrics have been stuck in my head since Sunday:

Who brings our chaos back into order
Who makes the orphan a son and daughter
The King of Glory, the King above all kings

Who rules the nations with truth and justice
Shines like the sun in all of its brilliance
The King of Glory, the King above all kings

This is amazing grace
This is unfailing love
That You would take my place
That You would bear my cross
You would lay down Your life
That I would be set free
Jesus, I sing for
All that You’ve done for me

It’s easy for me to think of the words “Who brings our chaos back into order” as a one time deal – in the moment I trusted God for my salvation and surrendered my life to Him. And it certainly is that. But I was thinking yesterday how I just can’t leave it at the moment I put my faith and trust in Christ.

I need God to find order for me still today. Order in my relationship to my husband, my children, my family, my friends, and in whatever life throws at me. And it is certainly a process.

We need to know that God is here with us. He cares about the brokenness in our daily lives – whatever it might look like – and He’s here to do something about it. He knows we struggle – sometimes deeply struggle – and need His intervention. And even if we have thrown in the towel, He’s there to pick it back up. 

When we need order, we run to Jesus and we find it in him alone. And we remember that we desperately need him in the joys and trials of life.

These truths have been enough to help me get back in the Word, get our home cleaned up again, love my family better, be thankful, practice moderation, serve others, and be known.

Everything isn’t made whole yet. Creation. This sin-cursed world. This sin-nature. But one day all of it will be. And that is our hope. Until then, we can lean into his precious grace not just for today but also for tomorrow.

 

Phil Wickham’s This is Amazing Grace Music Video – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XFRjr_x-yxU&feature=kp

 

Grace to An Imperfect Mom

225386_898597816168_55713931_42724790_2476659_nYesterday was just one of those days in motherhood. My three kiddos were extremely demanding, whiny, needy, disobedient, and hard to handle.

And I didn’t have much to give them. I have felt that way a lot lately being 29 weeks pregnant. I have felt like the imperfect mom a lot. But God always has a way of saving us when we feel like we’re at the end of our rope.

I remembered I had a bridesmaid dress fitting for my sister-in-law’s upcoming wedding. So last minute I asked my wonderful neighbors Angela and Aimee if they could help watch the kids. They got back to me immediately, were over in just a few hours, and held down the fort. Within only 10 minutes of driving down the interstate alone, I felt relief and like I could actually be a good mom when I returned.

That day I had also been struggling with lonliness and body image- two things I don’t struggle with regularly but do every once in a while. When I got to Alfred Angelo and tried on my dress, I opened the fitting room door to show the lady who did my alterations. We talked about how this was my fourth pregnancy and how my belly would grow more in the next few weeks before the wedding. A mom with her daughter overheard us and yells over at me, “This is your fourth pregnancy?” Her jaw dropped.

I wasn’t sure what she was meaning in her tone of voice.

“Yes it is, do you think that’s crazy?” I asked.

“No, you look so good!” she responded. “It looks like this is your first! I can’t believe it!”

I laughed and said thank you. It was reassuring that maybe I didn’t look like a whale afterall. The drive on the way back home was so pleasant and when I walked in the door, Angela and Aimee surprised me and had cleaned the whole downstairs of my house! They picked up everything on the floor, folded 2 big baskets of laundry, unloaded the dishwasher, cleaned my daughter’s nursery, picked up the entire playroom, organized books and crafts on the shelf, and more.

They did all of this while watching their kids and mine (a total of 6 little ones).

My husband had also gotten home and picked up some needed groceries and surprised me with a dozen red roses.

I was amazed at Angela and Aimee’s generosity and thoughtfulness. They served me with their time and mad cleaning skills and helped lift me up. And who doesn’t always appreciate flowers from their husband to know he really does care?

I had no idea all of that was coming my way, but God did. He reminded me that He was there and working and cared about how I felt and the neverending demands of raising and investing in your children.

I don’t know where you’re at in your motherhood journey but I’m guessing that if you’re like me, you need more time to yourself. You need more time with your husband. Maybe you struggle with yelling, anger, impatience, balancing work and being at home, depression, finding real community, or comparing yourself to other moms and friends.

Maybe you struggle with all the expectations that come with Mother’s Day approaching. The reality is that our kids don’t always show their love and obedience to us even on that day. And we might even get in an argument with our husband on the way to church. I’m pretty sure that happened to us last Mother’s Day.

I think it’s safe to say that as Mommas we need to let go of expectations, our failures, insecurities, and our dreams of perfection and allow God’s grace to shower us like a cool, refreshing rain after the scorching summer heat.

His love is there to draw upon whenever we need it and it is in Him where we find our full satisfaction and joy. He knows we are weak too. We fall short every day. That is why we need him. That is why we need the body of Christ and each other. We need his grace to change us from the inside out and to give us hope.

Well by the time bedtime came, I didn’t have to do anything except help put my kids to bed. I felt renewed to love them again and give them the attention they deserve. Thankfulness flooded my heart. I laid my head down and slept the best 8 hours I’ve slept in a long time.

Sweet Stillness and Future Grace

This morning I woke up to thunder, sleet, and snow. And every time winter rolls around in Dallas and if we’re lucky to have snow on the ground, I’m always reminded to be still. More specifically, to be still about the future and God’s plans for my life.

And on a morning where I planned to go to my exercise class at the gym, I’m now sipping on a cappuccino, watching my son make snowballs and footprints in the snow (he’s always the first child to rise), and thinking about what my morning will look like cozied up inside.

I love how snow also reminds me that I’m not in control.

Part of today’s devotional in Jesus Calling further confirms these truths:

The closer you live to me, the safer you are. Circumstances around you are undulating, and there are treacherous-looking waves in the distance. Fix your eyes on me, the one who never changes. By the time those waves reach you, they will have shrunk to proportions of My design. I am always beside you, helping you face today’s waves. The future is a phantom, seeking to spook you. Laugh at the future!  Stay close to me. – Jesus Calling, January 15

I don’t know about you, but I think way too much about the future. Where will God lead me and my husband? What plans does he have for my children? Will he take care of all my needs? How will I handle the really difficult days yet to come?

I also think of my daily responsibilities. What about all the laundry piled up on my couch? All the dishes yet to be washed? Meals needing to be made? Love needing to be given? Appointments to set? Emails to answer? Articles to write? Relationships to invest? Gospel needing to be shared?

The daily list goes on.

For today, I just want to be fully where I am and not worry so much about what’s ahead. To stay close to Jesus and hear His sweet, still voice. To love on my children well and be the person God is calling me to be today.

And to know that even in my failures and shortcomings that are possible any day of the week, He is still with me. His grace is always here to draw upon. His grace helps me hand over my future, grandiose plans and surrender them to His will.

Every time I look out our french doors and see the blanket of snow covering our backyard, I’ll be reminded of those awesome truths.

In what ways have you experienced God’s stillness and grace in your life? Do you trust that He is with you?

Poll: What Should Our Baby’s Middle Name Be?

* Before you vote, please see below *

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I thought having you participate in a little poll on my blog would be fun! Our baby girl is due to arrive at the end of the month and we’d like to have her middle name decided on before the delivery room.

We are 99.9% set on her first name being Hannah. It flows well with our other children’s names: John & Rebekah (biblical, traditional names, named after Jeremiah’s dad and my mom). We love the meaning of Hannah: Grace; favor in Hebrew. I’ve always loved the softness of the name and how feminine it sounds.

Now, to the middle name. There are 4 options below that are our favorite as of now:

Kate– Jeremiah likes the name a lot. I do too. I think it’s cute/sophisticated and might be fun to call her by both names: “Hannah Kate.” There would be a hard “k” on the middle and last name however, but that might not matter so much?

Elisabeth– Significant for author Elisabeth Elliot. Her writing has greatly impacted my mom’s life and my own. We also think it flows well.

Grace- It seems like every girl’s name sounds good with grace in the middle, right? It is a popular one.

Madison– just because.

If you have any other ideas, feel free to share them in the Comments. Thank you!

Heart Renovations {Good Friday Reflections}

our kitchen in progress

We’re in the middle of a major renovating project in the new house we’re set to move into at the end of the month. With the help of very generous friends in our church, my parents, and my husband and his friends, the ugly 60s style carpet in our living and dining room has been ripped out. The kitchen tile has been smashed out and new hardwood floors will be installed soon.

As you can imagine, the downstairs is a wreck. And on this Good Friday while I have just a few minutes to reflect on it, I can’t help but take a look inside the condition of my soul, apart from Jesus.

Apart from Jesus, it’s an absolute disaster. There is nothing good that exists (I wish there was).

I’m a sinful being and my sin is so disgusting and offensive that a price had to be paid to cover it.

Jesus’ death on the cross paid the massive debt I owed. A debt which I could never actually pay on my own accord. On the cross, Jesus said “It is finished.” Wholly. Completely. Not in part- but in full. Because of the pain, suffering, and anguish he endured and the spilling of his blood, I’ve been set free from the chains of sin. And no one else could do it, but Jesus.

Because of his death, grace washes over all our sin. Amazing grace for you and for me. A most precious gift.

But the cross can’t be left by itself, displayed on a church building, or worn around our neck as pretty jewelry. The cross, which showed his great love for us, demands an answer from us. A choice that we must make. Will we accept Jesus’ gift of grace and surrender our lives to Him? Will we turn from our sin and cling to Him? Will we allow him to renovate the ugliest, shameful parts of our heart so we can be restored again?

He is more than willing if we let Him.

The beauty of the cross and his grace is that He removes the junk and debris. He changes us and makes us new. It is all an act of His grace- a profound mystery.

Today, let’s not forget just how awful our sin is and how disgraceful Jesus’ death on the cross was. But let us also not forget…

Sunday’s coming.

Check out this video.

Depending on Grace in Motherhood

My kids and I had just settled in at the park. The sky was bright blue. The breeze was gentle. I picked up my 17 month old daughter and inched her little legs into the holes of the swing. My three year old son was off doing his own thing on the slides.

The mom next to me was pushing her little boy in his swing. She looked a few years older than me and had long blonde hair and a nice smile.

“I can’t believe you’re going to have another one!” she said to initiate conversation.

Oh, here we go again, I thought.

I had heard this a few times before from other people (who I didn’t know. in the public setting). It agitated me but I tried my best to be nice.

“Yep, it will be a lot as they are all close in age,” I replied.

I talked a little bit about the challenges I knew I would face as a mom of three young children. And that yes, it seems crazy. Then I switched the subject and asked her questions. She was happy to tell me about her kids and how she could never have them so close in age. And I understood her completely.

But what that mom didn’t know about me was that I have huge fears and worries when it comes to welcoming our third baby in June. I had a rough transition from 1 to 2 kids and being that this baby will only be 20 months apart from my youngest, brings a lot of what if’s in my head. I’m scared of what the “balance” will look like.

How will I handle three meltdowns? Three whines for Mommy? Three hands pulling on my legs? Three bedtimes? And going out in public with three all at once? Do I even know what I am getting myself into?

In the past few months, God has really been working on me in this area of my life. If you can’t already tell! I adore my children. I love investing in them and wouldn’t want anything else in the world. God has entrusted them to me and I consider that a huge honor and great responsibility.

But I also have my days. I’m not the most patient person. I struggle with anger. I’m not a good multi-tasker. And being a stay-at-home mom around the clock has been exhausting at times. Much harder than I could imagine.

And then the same word that came to mind when I was at the park, as if to write itself across that blue sky, came yet again.

GRACE. God has brought me this far in motherhood, how could He leave me now? He has been my sustainer on the days I couldn’t go on anymore. Those days where sleep deprivation gets the best of you and you feel like you’re going crazy.

Somehow and some way, He has always carried me through even when I didn’t deserve it. His grace has helped me live in the Spirit and love my children well, reminding me that what I do in the daily, messy grind isn’t in vain. And that being at home is the greatest gift I can give them. His grace reminds me that I simply can’t do anything in my own strength.

Will His grace continue on, and on, and on? It always has. And it always will.

My prayer is that I will lean into grace all the more as I approach delivery and the days and months after. My prayer is that I will stop worrying so much about the opinions of others and trust in God’s plan for my life and my family, being confident that His grace is always available to hold onto.

five minutes to let it shine

Over the past few Sundays, my pastor Todd has been encouraging our church to share our stories of grace authentically and intentionally with the people we encounter every day right here in Dallas. Last week, I had about five minutes to do what I knew God was impressing upon on my heart.

I was at Jamba Juice and a guy in his 20s was serving my sister-in-law Charis and I our smoothies. I asked him if he was a student and he wasn’t, but did have a kid. Charis talked with him a little bit about nutrition. He was easy to talk to and friendly. He poured the leftover smoothie from my cup and gave the remaining to my son. He also gave us some samples of their breakfast granola and dried fruit.

But that wasn’t it. I knew I was supposed to give him one of the orange cards that I carry in my purse that has the info to our church on it.

Then suddenly, about 3-4 people started coming through the door and he was slammed. 5 minutes pass by. Then 10. Then 15. I told Charis how I really wanted to invite him to our church, but the opportunity wasn’t happening.

I was determined to give him the card so while he was serving customers and getting their smoothies, I stepped in behind the counter. In the midst of all the blenders grinding and chatter, I invited him to come and told him how our church is full of young adults and has a great children’s ministry. I was a little concerned about who could hear me.

His eyes lit up and he smiled. “You know what?” he said. “I moved here a year ago and I’ve been looking for a church. Thank you so much! I’m going to check it out Sunday.”

Really? You are? I thought.

I couldn’t believe it. His response was not what I expected!

While inviting the Jamba Juice guy to church is not the same as presenting the gospel, it was an invitation for him to see the gospel at work in the lives of others. It was a step in the right direction.

I think so many times I wait for the perfect moment to say anything about my faith or my church, and it never happens. I fear what people think of me. I’m sometimes not walking in the spirit, or even know how to articulate my words naturally. I fear I will sound stupid or crazy. This experience taught me to shine my light in whatever window of opportunity exists and to just go for it and be who I am.

No matter what.

Have you had any opportunities to shine your light?

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