THE INDISPENSABLE ROLE OF MOTHERHOOD

THE INDISPENSABLE ROLE OF MOTHERHOOD
By: Judy Downs Douglass

“The hour is urgent,” the speaker was saying. “The world needs the Lord Jesus Christ. The world is hungry for God. This is no time for business as usual. Our lives must be supernatural. We must be spiritual revolutionaries.”

“Sure,” I thought to myself. “When will I ever do anything significant for the Lord again?”

When I was eight years old I had decided I wanted to become a writer. When I received Christ at the age of fifteen I had a definite sense that God had something special He wanted me to do. How thrilled I was that what He wanted me to do was write and edit for Him. For fourteen years I had the privilege of working in the Publications Department of Campus Crusade for Christ, writing and editing to touch lives for Christ. I had seen God do wonderful things in my life and through my life. I felt very much as though I were living a supernatural life, as though I were making a significant contribution to the cause of Christ.

But now I had a very active fourteen-month-old. Just maintaining daily life overwhelmed me. And I was pregnant. When would I ever find the time to reach out and minister even to one other person, much less to do anything truly
significant or satisfying?

Criteria for Self Worth

I found myself in something of a crisis stemming from two distinct pressures in my life. The first had to do with a diminished sense of significance or self-worth, a common response to the demands of mothering. Psychologist Bruce Narramore tells us that most psychologists agree on which basic conditions in life contribute to our sense of feeling significant or of value.

The five most important criteria for personal worth and significance include:

1. Security. We need to know that we are secure, that we are safe. This often involves financial as well as physical security. For many people, “what I have” defines security.

2. Confidence. It’s important that we feel we have life basically under control. We want to know we’re special, and that we can do something of value. “What I can do” contributes to our feeling of confidence.

3. A sense of belonging. For all of history, the family unit has provided a sense of belonging. That is often not the case today. We sometimes seek to find that “I am a part of something” feeling by joining groups and participating in various activities.

4. A sense of being loved. Loving relationships are a cornerstone for a healthy and happy life. Finding out “who loves me” is a driving quest in the lives of many, adults and children both.

5. Purpose. Each of us wants to feel that we have something to contribute to the world. We want to know we have accomplished something of value. We want the answer to “Why am I here?”

In my career I had experienced a sense of personal worth in all of these areas. I felt secure in my job, primarily because I was sure I was doing what God had called me to do.

I had confidence. I had been doing my work long enough to feel I was doing a good job and was comfortable with it.

I definitely had a sense of belonging. My coworkers and I were very close and had an excellent working relationship.

I felt loved by those I worked with as well as by my husband and other important people in my life.

And the assurance that my writing and editing touched lives for the Lord gave me a tremendous sense of purpose to my life.

Diminished Sense of Value

My new role of motherhood, however, gave me very little assurance of value in any of these areas.

Security. I had a sense of security in my job. There was no one else to do it, though there were times I felt like giving the responsibility to someone else. I often did not feel sure of my health or my sanity. But in motherhood my “just
surviving” mentality hardly gave me a sense of real security.

Confidence. I did not find mothering easy and I had almost no confidence that I was doing an adequate job. I read a lot of books, and sometimes they helped, but too often they caused me to feel inferior or that I was a failure.

Belonging. Yes, there was a sense that I belonged to this child. But I had very little opportunity to belong anywhere else. I often missed the camaraderie of the office.

Being loved. I was still certain of my husband’s love, though I didn’t feel lovely very often. As for my wonderful little daughter, she generally made demands rather than returning love to me.

Purpose. I knew that what I was doing in Debbie’s life had great, long-term significance and purpose. Because there was little tangible evidence of results in those early days, though, it was hard to recognize any purpose.

Conflicting Priorities

My other area of crisis came from the conflicting messages I seemed to be receiving about my use of time. On one hand, some of my friends pointed out that now that I was a mother, my ministry would be to my family. My children
would be my field of evangelism, my primary disciples, the focus of my life. I wouldn’t be able to do much else if I wanted to do a good job with my children.

On the other hand, people reminded me that God had given me certain skills and that I must continue to use them in His service. These people stressed the importance of my finding personal fulfillment in feeling useful. After all, if
I was not happy and fulfilled, my children wouldn’t be happy either. They urged me not to stifle my children, but to give them the variety of experience and exposure that my career and ministry would provide.

It seemed it had to be one extreme or the other, but I couldn’t believe that. There must be a balance–where is it?

I was not the only one who experienced these stresses. I talked with many mothers who were struggling with the same things. They all were asking, just as I was, “What can a mother do?”

An Assurance of Personal Significance

Fortunately, God did not leave me hanging in a closet of frustration and insignificance. Nor did He allow me to shut myself away from the opportunities He had for me. Through study of His Word, extensive conversations with my
husband, and the counsel of godly mothers, I began to get God’s perspective on my life as a mother.

First, He dealt with my feeling that I had lost any sense of significance in my life. He reminded me that He, and He alone, was the source of my sense of personal value and worth and significance.

He reminded me that He loved me unconditionally (Romans 5:8), eternally (Jeremiah 31:3), and sacrificially (John 15:13).

He reminded me that my security had to be in Him, and that in Him I was truly safe. Jesus said, “No one can snatch [my sheep] out of my hand” (John 10:27,28).

He reminded me that in Him–and only in Him–I can have confidence. I am a special person, created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26,27). I am the crown of creation (Psalm 8:4,5). I am capable of treat accomplishments (Philippians 4:13). God is my source of and reason for confidence.

God reminded me that I belong in the greatest group of all–His own family. He adopted me and made me His own child (Ephesians 1:4-6; John 1:12).

Then He reminded me that I have a significant purpose. His primary purpose in my life is to make me like Jesus (Romans 8:28,29). As I become more and more like Christ, I will fulfill His purpose for me by reflecting the glory of God (1 Peter 2:9).

God has other specific purposes for my life as well. One is to bear good fruit: “You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain” (John 15:16). Also God has prepared good works for me: “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10). In the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30) Christ
tells us that we are to be good stewards of all that He gives us in life.

Significance in Mothering

Is being a mother really, truly, an important job? I believe mothering is possibly the most meaningful responsibility there is.

The greatest significance that mothering has for me lies in the fact that I have the opportunity to build a human being.

Some entire professions are dedicated to helping people. Physicians, psychologists, teachers and child care workers are a few of those who commit much of their lives to the care and development of human beings, and especially the
young. Sometimes the impact of people in these professions on a single person is great, but most often it is diluted by the demands of so many to be cared for.

In contrast, I have the privilege, as a mother, of performing all those valuable functions with great impact on a single life. I help that little person grow into a big, mature person, one who can handle life and have something to contribute to others. I am thus making a lasting contribution to another life as well as to future generations.

The spiritual contributions I can make and the opportunities I have to disciple my children, to build into their lives a love for God and an understanding of how to walk with Him, are extremely important. I have a continuing chance for long-term, in-depth, live-it-out discipleship.

Another vital benefit and evidence of the significance of mothering has been my own personal growth. More than anything in the world, I desire to be the person that God created me to be, to become more like the Lord Jesus. No other experience in my life has had such an impact on me–to make me more like Jesus–as that of being a mother.

Significance for Our World

Finally, my mothering is greatly significant for our world. There is in the world today a tremendous vacuum of spiritual and moral values and of character. There certainly is also a lack of leadership and responsible citizenship.

Norman Almond, a high school guidance counselor, has worked with students for more than fourteen years. He states, “Kids who come to my office reveal an emptiness in their lives. A lack of love, a lack of spiritual values, a lack of discipline. That old security is gone.”

As we present a loving, disciplined home and family, we will stand out in our neighborhoods. We can demonstrate to the world that it is possible to provide an atmosphere of acceptance and security for our children. We can model the kind of home that people truly desire in their hearts.

We also can uphold moral and spiritual standards that allow people to develop fully and to relate with each other in loving kindness. We can rear children who will pass these values on to their children.

My mothering provides a model of its importance at a time when many are seeking to diminish its significance. It is ironic that, in the current emphasis on self-actualization, many mothers are abandoning the most fulfilling contribution they can make in life. Mothering helps to produce the children who will grow into capable adults, able to live by high spiritual and moral standards. Those children who grow up in the security of love and affirmation will be equipped to lead our world in the next generation.

Home: The Most Significant Place in the World

In Maurice Sendak’s Where The Wild Things Are, Max grows tired of being king of all the wild things, and he says, “I’m lonely. I want to go back. I want to go where I’m loved the most.” He wanted to go home.

There are many important places in our lives. School, for example. What we learn there takes us through the remainder of our lives. It’s where we begin to learn to relate to people and where we often make life-long friends. Certainly it is where we spend a great deal of our time during childhood.

Church is also an important place. We go there to worship God within the body of Christ. There we are taught from the Word of God and have fellowship with other believers. We receive love and caring, and we have needs met. The church is often a channel through which we reach out and touch other lives.

As adults we put a great deal of our time, effort and energy into the work we do, contributing in that way to society. We often find satisfaction and a sense of achievement and growth at our work place, and it gives us the means for providing for our family’s needs.

As important as school, church and work place are, though, home–as Max discovered–is far more important. Home is the most significant place in the world for us and for our children.

Home Should Be . . .

Where you are loved the most. Though others in your life elsewhere will love you, consistent, unconditional love should always be available at home.

Where people know you the best. You should be able to be yourself there and know that you’ll be accepted, supported and affirmed. Even as a baby, the feelings you had about yourself and about life came from the atmosphere of your home. Whether you think you’re smart or not so smart, capable or incapable, attractive or not attractive depend largely on what you learned at home.

A growing place. Home should give you the freedom to experiment and develop as an individual, to find out what you’re good at and what you’re not so good at, to try and to fail. You need to be able to express freely, in any number of ways, the creativity that God has placed within you.

Where relationships are important. This is where people should learn to care about others and believe the best about each other. They should be available to each other in times of need, and should be able to enjoy each other.

A place of oneness. Despite differences or disagreements, everyone can say, “I’m for you and you’re for me, and we’re for each other. We are a family.” Loyalty develops here. You learn that others in your family will be loyal to you, and you determine to be loyal to them.

A place of responsibility. Here a person learns how to live in this world, to fulfill obligations, and to be a good citizen.

A place of memories and traditions. We learn about our roots at home, and we establish traditions of our own that give us stability and a sense of permanence. All our lives, we carry memories of home and of all that our family meant to us.

A place of shelter. It’s so comforting to be able to come home when life has been difficult, when friends have been unkind, when success has been elusive, or when loving has been painful.

No home, of course, can be all of these things all the time, or even some of the time. No home will be perfect. Nevertheless, a home dedicated to God and filled with people seeking to please Him and to love each other has the potential to truly be the most significant place in the world to a person.

Significance for Your Children

How many times have you desired that magical, storybook promise of three wishes?

If you could wish for your children anything at all as an inheritance, what three things might you wish for them?

I wish many different things for my children–happiness, health, a good marriage, success, fulfillment. I want them to be good people. But I think I can sum it all up in three wishes. If they are to make the most of their lives, they need first, a personal relationship with God; second, a good character; and third, a useful life.

A Relationship With God

A relationship with God and an understanding of how to walk in the power of the Spirit assure our children access to all the fruit of the Spirit in their daily lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. These contribute to the full and abundant life that God provides, and to good health as well.

A relationship with the loving creator God of the universe gives us the strength, the faith, the perseverance to go on in the difficult trials that come to everyone’s life.

When our children have a relationship with God, we know that He is always with them even when we can’t be–on that first day of school, when they spend the night at a friend’s, as they travel to another city to play baseball, or on that first date. All the things that seem to give stability to their lives may disappear, but God will always be there to guide them, to protect them, to empower them.

How can we help our children establish that relationship with God? Since this is the most important thing we could give them as an inheritance, let’s use an acrostic with the word MOST to consider some how-to’s.

M odel
0 bserve
S upport
T rain

Model

We must provide a model of the Christian life. Our walk with God should be so vibrant, so real, so enjoyable that our children will see it and desire it.Being a Christian must not be perceived as simply a lot of rules, a Sunday activity, or an occasional moral guide in our lives. We must demonstrate that Christ is relevant to every area of our lives.

Observe

We must observe our children day by day, looking for opportunities to show them how a relationship with God can be a part of their daily lives. When they are fearful, our family reads Psalm 23 together. When they get excited about David and Goliath, we talk about trusting God when something is too big for us. When they discover us in tears, we tell of our hurt and of God’s comfort. All these things help them see a relationship with God as vital to our lives.

Support

We need to provide an environment that creates in our children a hunger for God, and we need to assure them that their search for and questioning of Him will be respected. As they come to know Him intimately, they will grow to love Him, and as they love Him, they will be willing to obey Him–and that is the most essential thing: to obey God. If this is to happen in their lives, they need to see us working out our relationship with God in our daily living. They
need to know that we will listen to them, answer their questions, pray with them, and support them.

Train

As important as living out the Christian life before our children is, it is not enough. We must also teach them what it is we have, and how they can have it, too. Deuteronomy 6:6-9 tells us we are to teach our children through every
event of life. As we sit, as we stand, as we walk, wherever we go, whatever we’re doing, we should be teaching them about God and what He can and should mean to them.

And of course, we must tell them how they can know Jesus Christ.

A Good Character

The second wish I would make for each of my children is a good character. Why is a good character important? A good name is to be more desired than great riches, favor is better than silver and gold” (Proverbs 22:1).

Character determines so much in our lives. It influences our reputation, and our reputation affects our relationship with people, our confidence level and our ability to achieve. Our character helps to determine the contributions we
will make in life. It will be instrumental in giving us peace of mind and a clear conscience.

What are the most important character qualities to develop in our children? Those qualities which influence the greatest areas of life probably are integrity, responsibility, humility, generosity, discernment, kindness, self-discipline and a sense of humor.

Character building is a lifelong process. But we can help our children start. Again, let’s use our MOST outline.

Model

As always, the most important thing we can do is to model good character. Our children follow what we do more than what we say. If they see us consistently break traffic laws, they absorb that as the acceptable norm. On the other hand, if they see us tell a salesclerk she undercharged us, they will learn that being honest and truthful is important, even when it’s to our disadvantage. When children see integrity, responsibility, humility, generosity, and other
good character qualities demonstrated in parents’ lives day by day, they assume that that’s what should be true in their lives as well.

Observe

We can teach our children to observe good and bad character traits in the lives of people they come in contact with. We can talk about the choices those people make and the consequences of their choices. When a friend has been bossy, we talk about how that affects us and why it’s not a good quality. We should be sure our children are exposed, through reading, media and personal interaction, to people who will demonstrate the right kind of character qualities. It’s also appropriate and advisable to discuss what God says about character qualities as we see them exhibited in others.

Support

We need to support our children as they attempt to make right choices for their lives. When they are very young, we can dictate what they will do and what they won’t do, protecting them from the consequences of wrong choices. As they grow older, though, they need to come to understand the impact that some activities, or certain music, or particular friends, or television, or various other kinds of entertainment might have on them and their minds and their values.

Train

Much of character development will occur as a way of life, but we should seek to teach our children what is right and what is wrong. We must prepare the foundation so they are equipped to make right choices in life. Our teaching should be creative. One of the best things is to make up what-if stories that allow the child to think through the consequences of a certain activity.

Most important, we must teach our children about the person of God, about His character and what’s important to Him. We need to teach them about the power that is available to them through the Holy Spirit to do what is right, to choose wisely, and to make good decisions.

A Useful Life

The third wish I have for my children is a useful life. What is a useful life? It could be defined as utilizing your gifts and abilities and talents for the glory of God and the benefit of others.

Why is it important? God has created each of us for a purpose. He has given us gifts, talents and skills, and He expects us to use them, to multiply them, and to be accountable for good stewardship of what He’s given us. Therefore, it’s essential that we help our children discover what God has for them.

How do we help our children develop useful lives? Once again, let’s use our MOST outline.

Model

As in everything else, the first thing we must do is model it. Our children must see us utilizing our skills, talents, gifts, training-all that God has given us. They must recognize our stewardship. They must see us contributing to
their own lives, to the lives of others, and to society.

Observe

We need to observe our children. We need to seek to understand their interests, their abilities, their “bent” in life. My children are quite different from each other. Debbie appears to be an active, aggressive leader. She has a plan and wants to make sure things happen her way.

Michelle, on the other hand, is much more relaxed. She is creative and imaginative and makes up stories for herself and for others. If we are to help our children develop useful lives, we must discern their strengths and potential.

Support

We can support our children by providing opportunities for them to discover what they’re good at, what they enjoy, and where God has gifted them. We can expose them to a variety of possibilities–sports, music, computers, art,
books, theater-and support and affirm them as they experiment with different things. When they falter, we can offer encouragement to help them get up and try again or move on to something else. The atmosphere and the attitudes we offer are crucial to their feelings of confidence as they seek to discover what God wants them to be.

Train

As our children discover where they want to concentrate, what their areas of gift and ability are, we must help them learn to become proficient. We must provide the training they need. That might mean continued participation in an activity or taking a special class, or joining a group, or choosing a major in college. Appropriate training will be a key for helping our children develop useful lives.

Pray and Plan

If we’re really to see our wishes for our children come true, we must be committed to do our part. First, we must pray, for ultimately God is the one who must build our children into the people He created them to be. We must pray for them daily, for their needs, their fears, their opportunities, their spiritual lives. We must ask God for His nvolvement in every area of their lives.

Then we must do our part–we must plan. Oops. Did I lose you with that? Plan for our children? Yes. If we want them to grow in a relationship with God, to develop a good character and to have a useful life, we must plan. It won’t happen accidentally. Much growth will occur as we live out the things that we believe before and with our children, but we will see so much more fulfillment if we provide specific direction.

Children are created in the image of God and by God for very specific purposes. We have an incredible responsibility and privilege to help them grow into the individuals God created them to be. We can help them establish and build a
relationship with God. We can enable them to develop a godly character. And we can help them discover “the way” God has for each of them, and guide them toward building useful lives.

With Your Skills and Talents

God has given each one of us specific resources for which He holds us accountable. We each have our lives, we have treasures of various kinds and amounts, we have time, and we have talents or skills or abilities or spiritual gifts. And on that judgement day He’s going to ask us how we used for His glory–what He gave us, how we invested it and multiplied it in the lives of others.

Certainly the skills and gifts that God gives us will be used to different degrees in the different seasons of our lives. But God is not wasteful and He doesn’t want us to waste what He has given us.

What are your skills? Your talents? Your training? Your gifts? Be assured that God has a way for you to use them.

Accounting: Provide financial counseling for your church or neighbors. Serve on the finance committee at church.

Art: Provide design and artwork for your church. Do design and artwork for your children’s school or preschool. Teach a class as part of a women’s program at your church. Illustrate children’s books. Volunteer to do art for a missions organization.

Cooking: Cook for church dinners. Prepare meals for retreats. Prepare meals for those in need. Be available to cook for evangelistic meetings. Host evangelistic parties in your home. Help neighborhood children to bake cookies at holiday time.

Counseling: Listen to those who need to talk. Encourage people in their walk with God. Give wise, scriptural advice for those seeking it. Give guidance to young people about their futures. Be available to help those with marital problems.

Crafts: Teach others how to do crafts as part of a church women’s outreach. Make things to sell at a fundraising bazaar for a missions organization or your church. Provide decorations for various church ministry programs.

Management: Organize an outreach effort for your church. Give leadership to a ministry program that interests you. Volunteer in a Christian organization. Be available as a consultant for charitable groups.

Music: Sing in a church choir. Help with the children’s church. Give leadership to a ministry program that interests you. Volunteer in a Christian organization. Be available as a consultant for charitable groups.

Nursing: Volunteer occasionally or part-time at a local hospital. Serve occasionally at your children’s school. Serve at a pregnancy counseling center. Be available for minor medical advice to neighborhood mothers.

Serving: Provide meals for the ill or needy. Care for the sick. Serve behind the scenes for any church or evangelistic outreach program.

Speaking: speak at church women’s groups, Christian women’s clubs, retreats. Givesmall devotionals for children’s or adult classes. Prepare baby and wedding shower devotionals.

Teaching: Teach Sunday school. Lead children’s church. Help at your children’s school. Lead a Good News Club. Teach in a women’s program at your church. Teach any skill you have to others who would like to have that skill.

Writing: Prepare devotionals for a church newsletter. Do a Sunday school class newsletter. Write magazine articles, newspaper articles, letters to missionaries.

Working with children: Help with Sunday school or children’s church. Start a Good News Club. Assist at a pre-school. Volunteer in your children’s school, teaching some skill you have. Develop a puppet program.

The list could go on and on. Whatever your skills and talents, God has given them to you for a purpose, to use them to touch other lives. He will ask you how you have used them and multiplied them to His glory. As we are good
stewards of all He has given us, we will hear, when we stand before Him, those wonderful words: “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your master.”

Natural Ministry

Our children can so easily be a natural part of our ministry.

In our homes: When we show hospitality, they might have to give up their room or adjust their schedule or forego a TV show. They can help prepare a meal and set a table.

To the ill: Cards and notes can be such an encouragement. Our children can often say something to an unsaved person or a needy person that would not be acceptable from an adult.

Visiting the lonely: Children can have a tremendous impact in the lives of the elderly or those who are alone for some other reason. They often benefit as much as the one to whom they minister.

By praying: Their ministry will be far reaching when they pray for those who have needs, for those who are suffering, for friends and relatives who don’t know Christ. And they will gain a heart for bringing people before the throne of grace.

Making gifts: This is probably one of the most popular ways for children to reach out and encourage, to say “I love you,” and to touch a life for Christ.

Going along: When we share Christ, when we counsel, when there is a disciple to meet, our children can observe, play quietly and pray. They often open doors, and they can see God working.

With their friends: Your children can bring into your home neighborhood children who would otherwise go home after school to an empty house. Children can befriend those who are not so popular. Encourage your children to share Christ with their friends or to invite them to Sunday school.

Truly the family is the key to a healthy society for future generations. Our children are our most important disciples. If they are to grow into an understanding of what it is to be available to God, to step into opportunities to touch lives for Him, they must see it in our lives and they must have a chance to participate with us.

Some Significant Help

Significance. You are a significant person. God has created you that way. There is great significance to your mothering. And there is great significance for you, your children and your world as you become an increasingly caring, outreaching and ministering person.

But how do you begin to make the right choices? You certainly can’t do all–or even many–of the things suggested. Probably one or two ideas will be all you can pursue at any one time. How do you know what you should be doing, what you should emphasize?

Choosing Right Priorities

All our choices must begin with right attitudes and right relationships. Our first priority must be our relationship with God. There needs to be a total commitment to God–that complete availability to do whatever He wants us to do, to go wherever He wants us to go, to be whatever He wants us to be, as we talked about before. We must come to God and say, “I submit myself to you. I want to be the person You created me to be. I want all that You have for me, but only what You have for me.”

When we’ve made that kind of commitment and truly seek His choices for us, then it’s important that we look closely at ourselves. We need to evaluate who we are, what we’re like, and what we’re able to do in light of the circumstances of our life at this time. It is extremely important that we recognize who we are and what is reasonable–with God’s strength–for us to consider as possibilities and opportunities.

Discerning God’s Goals

Then, with an attitude of total availability and a reasonable understanding of our own abilities, we can ask God to show us what He wants us to do. We should consider what God would want for us in the long-term future as well as for the immediate events of our lives.

The next question is, How? How will you accomplish what you believe God wants you to do? What steps or activities will take you the farthest toward the goals you have set? What would be the first step you need to take–even in the next day or two? What steps would you need to take after that? Do you need to do some research, take a class, read a book, get some training, hold a family conference, make a phone call, or purchase some equipment? When you have identified those first steps you need to take, write them on a card.

Now tape that card to your mirror, on your refrigerator door, or by your sink–someplace where you will see it every morning. We are much more likely to follow through on our plans if we keep them before us.

Scheduling Your Time

All the best plans, the best intentions, the best “to do” lists will be meaningless if they don’t make it into your day-to-day schedule. Is it really possible for a mother with young children to schedule her time effectively? I believe it is. Let me suggest an approach that works–if we remain flexible.

Pick a morning, any morning-maybe tomorrow. Pull out–or make out–your “to do” list. Undoubtedly there will be more things to do than you can do in one morning.

Ask yourself, is there someone else who could do any of these? Is your husband available? Is a child old enough to assume some responsibilities? Do you have a friend who could help you? Ask that person to take that item.

Next, determine which remaining activity is the most important thing you can be doing? Which is your number one priority? Could it be the first step toward one of your ministry ideas? Which is number two?

Then, write into your schedule what you are going to do. How much time will it take to do that number one activity? Put that into your schedule. How much time will it take to do the next? Write that into your schedule. Be sure to allow some flex time, recognizing that things probably will not go quite as you have them planned.

This approach to time scheduling will work for a month, a week, or an hour, whatever time allotment you choose. But how can you make sure you follow your schedule? The secret is always to be doing your number one priority.

Managing Your Home

Another big help in being able to minister both to your family and beyond your family is to have your home well managed. My friend, Mary Johnson, who occasionally teaches a class on home management, and who cares for her two boys, suggests a few simple but strategic ideas.

The first thing to do is walk through your home. In each room ask, what is the function of this room? What do we do in this room? What could we do to make this room most effective for its purpose?

The next step is to get rid of clutter. You might have three boxes as you start going through rooms or closets or parts of the house. One is a “throw-away,” another is a “give-away,” and a third is a “put-away” box. Everything should go
into one of those boxes. Those things that go into the put-away box then must be put away. It’s vital to have a place for everything–files, book shelves, closets, drawers, the garage.

Another step in getting rid of the clutter is to give all your clothes the one-year test. Have I worn this in the past year? If not, then I ought to get rid of it. Of course, in the baby-bearing years, weight and shape fluctuations necessitate a longer “keep” time.

Next, you need to organize for efficiency. Considering what you do in each room, place things where they are most efficiently used. Make sure you have easy access to things that you use often–keeping them at arms lengths and easily removed; don’t stack them. Things that are used less often can be in more difficult-to-reach places. Keep your work surfaces as clear and clutter-free as possible. Store things in see-through containers or label them clearly so that you don’t have to look through boxes to find something you want.

Include the family in your home organization. This will help build confidence, character and responsibility as well as save your work. Use chore charts or some other way to make sure every person knows what his or her responsibilities are. You need to show children how to do what you want them to do, give them guidelines, and inspect what they’ve done. Often children don’t do what we’ve asked them to because they really don’t know how.

Finally, remember to enjoy your home. I have a friend whose home is immaculate. She has small children, and I’m not sure it’s possible for those children to enjoy the home. It’s good to put things away right after they’re used, but to be rigid and not allow a child to change what she’s doing and to enjoy herself doesn’t allow the home to be a comfortable place. Do your guests feel relaxed when they visit? Does your husband feel at ease when he comes home? I find that for most people a balance between neatness, order and lack of clutter, and a sense that we can live here and do things in this home, seems to be the best.

These ideas for time scheduling and home management can provide significant help in discovering and stepping into God’s ministry opportunities for you. However, God Himself provides the most significant help of all.

Principles for Life

As I seek to discover God’s balance for me, I find it’s useful to have some guiding principles, some steady reference points to help me sort out the possibilities and opportunities. Let me share five such life principles with you.

First, keep your life goals before you. Know where you are going and how you expect to move in that direction. Look at these goals often so they will help you make the right choices for the right day.

Second, remember you are a significant person. God made you in His image. God loves you so much He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for you. God has a wonderful, specific plan for your life. When you don’t feel significant, when you don’t seem to be accomplishing very much, when mothering seems so tedious, remember you are significant and God will use you in a significant way.

Third, recognize that home is the most important place in the world. What happens in our home determines the future of our children and our world. Home is where our children must gain the strength, security, confidence, affirmation and love they need to go out into the world and be and do all that God has for them.

Fourth, realize that you have something significant to contribute to your family and beyond your family. You are the right wife for your husband, the right mother for your children. Just as they will have an impact on your life, so you will influence them significantly. God put you in your neighborhood. He gave you specific skills and abilities and gifts. He has given you certain friends. He gives you definite opportunities. He has meaningful ways for you to contribute.

Finally–and this is most important of all–do what God wants you to do. Seek Him above all else. He is more important than all the activities, all the opportunities, all the needs of life. He must be first in our lives. I truly believe that, if we want with all our hearts what God has for us, and if we’re willing to do it no matter what it is, He won’t let us miss it. The one question that I ask whenever someone is making a difficult decision is, “What does God want you to do?”

I never cease to be in awe that God chooses to use me to touch lives for Him. What a privilege and what a responsibility! Yet too often I settle for less than God’s best. I’m not available, or I’m too busy with my plans-and I miss God’s opportunity for me.

God wants to use you, too. His Word says that He has already prepared good works for you to do (Ephesians 2:10). He has appointed you to bear fruit for Him (John 15:16).

He will give you a supernatural life and supernatural power to do what He wants you to do. He has a ministry just for you. Don’t settle for less than God’s best. be open. Be available. And step into the opportunities He provides.

(The above material is one of a series of pamphlets published by Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs, CO.)

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