BY JESSICA GAPASIN DENNIS
[NOTE FROM JESSICA 05.09.18] This is the devotion I gave this morning for my MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group. For the month of May, our theme is grace and it just so happens that many of the things that God has been showing me over the last few months aligned perfectly with the theme. I’m sharing today as part of the #The100DayProject.
This past January, I attended a Vision Board Party where I had a chance to reflect on what God’s vision might be for me in 2018. I wrote at the top of my board a line from one of my favorite songs: “Give me vision to see things like You do.”
And while I didn’t realize it at the time, this was a prayer that was planted in my heart that day — a prayer that I’ve seen God answer over and over again in just the past 4 months. For my devotion this morning, I wanted to share with you 3 insights that God has opened my eyes to, ones that I hope will be sources of wisdom and clarity for someone sitting in this room.
Throughout our lives, there are many voices that try to tell us who we are. And God knows, everyone has something to say about what a “good mom” is supposed to look like.
If you’re anything like me — someone who feels compelled to read every article and blog post, and learn from every expert and seasoned mom about how to be a good mom — it can be overwhelming. I struggle often with figuring out if I’m doing something just because so-and-so said this was the way to do it or because It was truly something I wanted to do.
In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul describes it perfectly: I was being “tossed by waves and swept along by every wind of teaching” (Eph 4:14 NABRE).
When I first began staying at home 5 years ago, it was a choice that I had made wholeheartedly. I recognized it for what it was — an opportunity that not everyone had, and work that I knew was important.
But what I didn’t realize was that within the past 2 years, I was slowly becoming resentful about my role as a stay-at-home mom.
It didn’t happen all at once. These feelings of resentment and inadequacy and doubt about who I was and whether I was in the right place — they crept up slowly and subtly, until I looked around and realized that I constantly felt like I was drifting and just being swept along by the events and responsibilities of my day. In a journal entry from March, I wrote, “I hate this feeling. It’s not even a rut, it’s like I’m just being taken along for a ride in somebody else’s car.”
What’s crazy is that, on the surface, I was doing everything right when it came to being the quintessential mom. I went on playdates. I signed my kids up for classes. I blogged. I read other mom blogs. Probably too many of them, honestly.
At one point, I was a part of two moms’ groups and was on leadership for this MOPS group for 2 years. I surrounded myself with women who seemed like they had it all figured out, who seemed content at where they were and who they were. I did everything I thought I was supposed to.
I got so good at doing everything on my “good mom” checklist that I started to believe I could simply will myself into being content at home again, that I could fake it ‘til I made it.
In reality, I was just putting on a stay-at-home mom costume whenever I left the house and then shedding it at the end of the day. (This may be a slight exaggeration, but I literally felt like this guy from Men in Black.)
It wasn’t until I began building in 15-20 minutes everyday to sit and be still before God that my eyes were opened to how unhappy I was. And it wasn’t my situation — the fact that I was staying at home — that was making me unhappy, it was the fact that I was believing a Lie about my situation. That what I was doing was a waste of time, that it wasn’t a real job, that I could be doing more meaningful things if I went back to work.
And it was during this time in prayer that God showed me the Lie that I had come to believe was from an article I had read years ago that featured interviews with women whose moms had stayed at home. In it, one of the women just flat out said that she believed her mom had wasted her time staying at home and that she thought less of her for having chosen to do so.
And I remember reading that and immediately thinking, well I don’t want my girls to look at me and think I’m useless. And God showed me that it was then that this negative thought, this Lie took root in my heart because I didn’t test it — I unquestioningly accepted it as a Truth about my life, when in fact it wasn’t true at all.
(And just to show how God good is, just days after this came up in prayer, my 5 year-old, unprompted, said how happy she was that I was home with them.)
Ladies, as we sit in this room this morning, what Lies have you unknowingly accepted about your situation? Because whether we like it or not, we need to be aware that these Lies are exactly what prevents us from living out the purpose that God has designed us for.
Which brings me to my next point.
#2) Spiritual warfare is real.
Paul writes in his letter to the Ephesians, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph 4:16).
Before, when I would come across this verse, it was easy for me to write this off as “things that happened in scary movies.” But what’s easy to forget is that the Enemy often works in very subtle ways, so subtle that you don’t notice it’s happening until it’s too late.
When I started setting aside time every morning to light a candle and pray, God began opening my eyes to to ways in which the Enemy is hard at work, in my present, very ordinary circumstances, to steal our joy, to lie to us and our loved ones about ourselves and who we are to one another, to spark division and discord. Lies like:
You’re too busy to pray.
You did so much today already, you don’t need to pray.
It’s too hard to make friends in this area. You don’t need friends anyway.
God has shown me, just in the past few months, that the most important work I’m doing right now is covering my family in prayer. So that my daughters don’t walk around believing Lies about themselves like, “I’m not good enough,” or “My mom cares more about my sister than me” — something that came up just a few weeks ago with my 5 year-old.
Again, Paul says it perfectly in Ephesians,
Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil…In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication (Eph 6:11, 16-18).
#3) We are not the heroes of this story.
Ladies, there is one word that I think it more damaging to us than we realize, and that word is “Supermom.” I hear “Supermom” and it makes me believe that the only way I can call myself a good mom is if I know how to do it all and do it myself.
How often do we start off calling Jesus our hero and then slowly, but surely, start trying to steal his cape and superhero costume? We start off saying that we surrender and trust, and then our old habits kick in and we say, “I’ll take it from here, Jesus. I got this.”
But Jesus makes it clear, when he teaches his disciples how to pray: “Give us this day our daily bread.” We were always meant to rely on God on a daily basis.
This is what God says:
Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. (Mt 11:28)
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let you hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27).
As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you (Isaiah 66:13).
Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for the child she has borne? But even if that were possible, I would not forget you! See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands (Is 49:15-16 NLT)
My dear sisters, there are so, so many good things in store for us when we make the time to pray. My prayer for you — whether you are a stay-at-home mom or if you work part-time or full-time, no matter how you are being called to live out your vocation — that you may truly know how deeply loved you are by God. That when you are in Christ, everything you seek is already right where you are.
As Christ gave sight to the blind and opened deaf ears, I pray that our eyes are opened so that we might see things as they truly are. I pray the same words that St. Paul prayed thousands of years ago:
…may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Ephesians 3:16-19 NLT
I pray that when we look in the mirror, we come to recognize ourselves as the prayer warriors that God has placed within our spheres of influence. That no matter our circumstances, we see God all around us, working on our behalf and cheering us on.
Most of all, may we recognize we were never meant to make this journey alone. That not only do we have Christ, but we have each other.
This morning, I woke up early to pray for all of you. Of course, both of my daughters heard me trying to sneak downstairs and ended up being part of my prayer time. When I lit the candle, I asked them to help me pray for all the moms who would be gathering this morning. My 5 year-old, with the wisdom of the holy Spirit, said to me, “I bet they’re praying for you too, mom.”
Know you are covered in prayer, not just by me, but by other moms in this room who already recognize their roles as prayer warriors in their spheres of influence. You are not alone.