Tuesday, I wrote a post dedicated to those women who have already raised their children well. It was my way of begging these amazing moms to be nice, and leave a legacy of grace for those coming behind them. Sadly, it doesn't always happen that way. Sometimes, older moms feel the need to crucify rather than edify.
Right after the post went live, I received an email in response from a dear mentor mama in my life. Funny thing is, I only just met Jan Skaggs a couple of years ago, and she lives in Austin, TX. It's not like I get to see her every day, or sit on her (amazing) front porch and sip sweet tea as we talk about life. But since I first met her, she has deliberately pursued me with grace, taking every opportunity to pour life, truth, and encouragement into my heart.
When someone does that, I listen.
Reading her words confirmed everything I know to be true. They were so good, in fact, that I felt compelled to share them with you. So what follows are Jan's words of encouragement to me after I was criticized by a mean mom.
But I also thought it would be fun to collect the thoughts of some other Titus 2 women I know who are getting it right. After Jan's thoughts, take a minute to read some more encouragement from my friends Kate Battistelli (Francesca Battistelli's mom, ya'll), and Sally Clarkson.
Encouragement from REAL Titus 2 Women
Note: It really would be helpful for you to read Tuesday's post first. Take a minute and then come back?
- Raising children is a loooooong process! We tend to view our precious ones in “snap shots” of time, but we’re really living an epic movie. The goal of godly, spiritually mature adults is still way out in front, and no one can (or should ever) be judged by one frame in a lifetime.
- It’s not a matter of “controlling your children," it’s a matter of training them. Again, a process. My favorite wisdom about this comes from my brother: “Make the right thing easy and the wrong thing hard.” Over time, they’ll get it.
- The woman whose words were so hurtful probably either has NOT raised her kids as well as she thinks, or she HAS and she’s taking credit for it, not recognizing the incredible grace of God to her. There is a mystery to how children “turn out," due in no small part to their own personalities and choices. The good Lord, our perfect Father, recognizes that children have a mind of their own—He gave it to us—and parents of little ones are not responsible for everything their children do (or don’t do).
It's an amazing honor to raise children to serve the Lord. Those of us who've done it have survived the daily battles/joys/frustrations of parenthood and lived to tell the tale! Our job now is to encourage women younger than ourselves, to affirm they are doing a great job and also to remind them this mothering gig is not easy and it tests every bit of Christian virtue we think we have!
As a mom with a grown child, I encourage older moms to help younger moms in these three ways.
- Remember. Try to remember what it was like when you were a young mom. We've been out of those days for awhile and just like the pain of childbirth, it's easy to forget what it's like when you're no longer in the trenches. It's easy to throw around cliched comments, easy criticisms and lame advice. It's far more fruitful to offer to lend a helping hand or a warm hug, time to talk and cup of tea. Take time to get to know the young moms. They need someone to tell them they really are doing a good job and sometimes they will make mistakes but it's ok and it rarely does any lasting damage to their children. Please don't constantly remind them how quickly their children will grow up. When you're in the day-to-day, believe me it doesn't seem as if it will EVER end, especially if you have toddlers or elementary-aged children. Cut them some slack and try to remember you didn't run a perfect household with perfectly behaved children either.
- Times have changed since we were moms. Technology exists today we didn't have. Cell phones, social media, the internet. These are all new and provide young moms unique challenges and distractions we never faced. Information continues to explode, the world is getting more confusing, not less, and they are facing temptations we never had to deal with. Be patient and be gentle. Our job is to help give them concrete examples of eternal principles as they raise their families. We teach by example, by modeling biblical womanhood. It's a process. We teach and admonish, correct when necessary (if we're given permission to speak into their lives), set a Godly example and be the woman they want to imitate. Live the truth and the truth is this: love rules!
- Use your words oh-so-carefully. Death and life are in the power of the tongue. Words can be creative and build up or deeply destructive and tear down. Avoid criticism because, well, see point number 1! I want to remind younger moms, including my own daughter, that they are doing a remarkable, world-changing, incredibly difficult job in a world growing darker by the day. I want to offer them hope and remind them they CAN do it and also, the season they're in will come to an end. I want to be a light to guide the way and a signpost to point them in the right direction. Let's be women they want to follow. Women who can say with confidence, "... this is the way, walk in it." Isaiah 30:21
As a mother who has raised her children, my desire is to encourage and give hope to the mama’s who are right in the thick of the battle. God has not called me to judge young moms, but to help them. Having made so many mistakes along the way, and often feeling so alone in this great calling, I did not want other mamas to go the road without providing some encouragement, hope and help along the way.
Motherhood is a very long-term journey. God intends that each child have someone devoted to them their whole lives—a mom! But each mom needs her own coach and cheerleader to walk beside her—to mentor her and to help her understand spiritual righteousness; to help her patiently love her children so that she will give emotional health; and to teach her to create a haven where the lives of their children might thrive in a loving, protected and stimulating home that the mom has created.
Yet, today’s moms are supposed to do all of this without help or training or support systems—or next door neighbors to help her in times of need. All of us have good days and bad and lots in between. But the role of a Titus 2 woman should be to give hope, inspiration and training to the mom who feels alone in her home.
One of my favorite aspects of Jesus’ words this year in my personal study is that He is “gentle and humble of heart,” and He then says, “Learn from me” (Matthew 11:29). When someone is humble, merciful, gentle, kind towards me, then my heart is open to learning from them, because I trust they will have my best in mind. However, if I fear I may receive more criticism or harshness, I will run far from that person. And so in the spirit of Jesus, let us come to each other humbly, in gentleness, to give hope, to walk as a shepherd tenderly caring for her sheep—as that is the picture I think Jesus gives us, so we may guide and encourage the mamas He brings into our lives.
I'm so blessed by these precious women who truly get what it means to pour into the next generation. What a treasure they are to those of us still mucking through the trenches of motherhood. Thank you for being so loving and kind, ladies!
Pray with me, friend?
Lord, my heart is hurting for those among us who don't have a real Titus 2 woman in our lives to help us walk through life with grace. So I want to lift those women up to you now, and ask you to meet this need in their lives somehow, some way. In Jesus' name.
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