The beauty of homemaking

I always knew that becoming a mother was a career choice for me. To my mind, it can’t be anything else. Raising children is not something to be done on the side, in our spare time, but something which calls for the highest standards of commitment, sacrifice, dedication and effort. I’d like to share some of the common reasons I hear against mothers choosing to stay home with their children, and my responses to these reasons.

1) Some people seem to think that women who choose to stay at home full time are unambitious. Firstly, ambition is not what life is about. Secondly, I think being a stay-at-home Mom is probably the most ambitious career out there! A housewife and mother has to master so many different facets of life. She is a cook, a cleaner, an arbitrator, a psychologist, a day-care provider, a mentor, a friend, a nurse, a teacher, a personal shopper, a playmate, and a care assistant. On top of these she may well specialise in a few other areas, such as baking, craft making, research, nutrition, health, sports, music, or just about any other subject or vocation you can think of. Being a full time homemaker is anything but boring!

There are joys in motherhood that can never be found in another career.

2) The other objection I frequently hear against being a stay-at-home Mom is that of financial strain. I admit that sometimes this is an issue. However, I think it is much less of an issue than most people perceive it to be. If you are thinking, “We can’t manage without two incomes.” I would encourage you to think again. Our lives are usually full of unnecessary stuff, which could be cut out to reduce our monthly expenditure. And if you really do need more money, then there are ways to work around this and still stay at home. Right now, for example, I am bringing in some extra money for my family by joining Usborne and selling children’s books. This allows me flexibility to work around my kids, rather than mothering around my work. It’s important to really evaluate our priorities, and make sure we are backing what we believe by the way we live. It’s no good wishing we had the resources to stay at home, but in reality placing a higher value on home decoration.

3) The last reason I commonly hear for women not staying at home is, “It’s just not for me.” This may be true. But what about your kids? To simply say “it’s not for me” seems a rather selfish reason. If you have carefully weighed all the pros and cons, if you have decided that you need to prioritize something else, or if you have prayed and prayed and prayed and still believe it is ‘not for you’, then I respect that. God has certainly called each of us to our own ministries, and we must act accordingly. But if you simply have a fear that you won’t like being a homemaker, then I truly hope you will stop and think again. There are such joys, such excitements, such challenges, blessings, and wonderful experiences to be had when you make your kids your career.

In closing, take time to read one of my favourite passages of Scripture, encouraging young mothers to keep her priorities right in the sight of God.

“Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.”  Titus 2:3-5 (NASB)

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The ministry of a mother: part 3, her husband

Celebrating nine years of marriage!

When you are a mother, it is sometimes easy to forget that you are also a wife. Sounds silly, I know, but true nonetheless. Taking care of kids is a time-consuming, resource-depleting, emotionally-demanding task, and often by the time your husband gets home from work you have already run into debt in all those areas. But this is not the way it is supposed to be. God wants us to intentionally (do you get the feeling I like this word?!) save time and energy to devote to our husbands. We were created a wife before we were created a mother, and we need to make sure we don’t ignore this role in our lives.

When God created women it was to be a helper for the man (and men to love their wives above themselves! – It’s a two way road). A partner, a friend, a supporter, someone on his team. This is a wonderful calling! The ministry of a wife is to love and help her man through all the joys and trials life brings them. I thought that it might be helpful to get a man’s perspective on this topic, so I asked my husband to tell me five things that he, as a husband, appreciates most. I have listed these below, and under each have put one or two practical suggestions for ways we might carry out our ministry as wives:

  1. Show me admiration and respect both privately and publicly in a visible manner.
    –  Guard your tone of voice and mannerisms.
    –  Look for things to praise your husband for, and make sure you verbalise them.
  2. Encourage me and build me up to achieve better.
    –  Instead of shaming your husband when you think he has failed to do what is right, pray first and then talk to him in a loving and positive manner, showing that you are concerned, but also that you believe in him.
  3. Support me in prayer and encouragement during difficulties.
    –  Set aside time daily to pray for your husband.  The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie Omartian is a great book to help you get started on this if you feel at a loss for what to pray for.
  4. Be the kind of mother who has our children’s best interests at heart. Be a mother who feels with them, learns with them, gets excited with them and guides them enthusiastically and intentionally.
    –  Remember that your children are another God-given ministry. Check out the previous post for more ideas on this topic.
  5. Keep the house on a daily basis – cleaning, washing, cooking, making my lunch for work every day.
    –  If your husband takes a packed lunch, offer to make it for him.
    –  Find out what is most important to your husband in terms of housekeeping, and even if you don’t have much time, try to get those done daily. For example, my husband especially appreciates having the laundry up to date, and having food ready to eat.

Hopefully these ideas have sparked off even more of your own ideas. Why not ask your husband what things he appreciates most, and how you can better serve, love and help him?

The ministry of a mother: part 2, her children

Mothers, I believe, have more influence on the people our children turn out to be than almost anyone else. I have heard and read of so many people who attribute their mothers as being a major factor in shaping who they are today. Here are some quotes to illustrate the point:

I remember my mother’s prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life.
Abraham Lincoln

Men are what their mothers made them.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

All I am I owe to my mother. I attribute all my success in life to the moral, intellectual and physical education I received from her.
George Washington

Only God Himself fully appreciates the influence of a Christian mother in the molding of character in her children.
Billy Graham

Being a mother who ministers to her children means taking hold of every opportunity to serve them and teach them life lessons that will have eternal value. Sometimes I am overwhelmed by the responsibility I have in guiding, teaching and molding my children. But sometimes, I am not overwhelmed; sometimes I forget that everything I do and say is shaping their characters, for better or for worse. In an earlier post I mentioned intentional parenting. This is not a phrase I have read about, but something I use for myself, to describe thinking carefully and purposefully about how to raise my kids. It means analysing the way I talk, teach, discipline, and every other daily thing as I do. It also means thinking about who I want my kids to be, and how to help them become those people.

Knowing the enormous input I have in the lives of my kids and you have in yours, here are some ideas for making our ministry effective:

Daily Bible time

We adopted the term ‘Bible Snuggle Time’ from my aunt’s family. For us, this is a special time where we spread out a blanket and get our Bibles, some paper and colouring pencils together. My husband or I read the kids a story each from their children’s Bible, then they get to quietly draw a picture from what they have learnt while we have a chance read our own Bibles. Sometimes we include other things too, such as prayer, songs and Bible memory verses.

Verse of the day

We have a small whiteboard set up by our dining table. Every day one person from the family gets to choose a Bible verse and write it on the board for us to read and enjoy for the day. Everyone gets a turn, and we find this a wonderful activity for incorporating spiritual growth with home education (reading, grammar, handwriting, spelling, etc!)

Pray, pray, pray

I have a friend who once held his baby niece in his arms and deeply moved said to me, “I imagine as a parent you must be constantly praying for your children.” How convicted I was! There are too many days that go by when I don’t take the spiritual battle seriously enough and fight for my kids in prayer. There are days when I am distracted by everyday happenings, and all I make time to do is a hurried goodnight prayer as I tuck them in and rush off to do the next thing. But in truth, there is nothing greater we can do for our kids than labour in prayer for them daily.

Let your kids see your relationship with God

I once asked two of my friends about what effect it had on them to see their mothers’ regular, personal devotional time. Both told me that it made a very significant impact on their spiritual lives, to the point that it still affects them today. They are also two of the most Godly people I know, who put their passion and talents to use for Christ by working in youth ministry. It is also important to let your kids see your love for God by worshipping and praying sincerely when they are around.

Family nights

Ready for our first family night!

Something I always wanted to do was start up a regular family night, and recently we have finally managed to do it! This is another opportunity for my husband and I to give specific spiritual guidance to our kids. We read from a devotional book, do fun activities, have special snacks (which the kids LOVE to help prepare earlier in the day) and have a time of worship. If you are looking for a good book to give you some ideas and inspiration to start up your own family night, I recommend this book. We went through this book before starting ours, and I feel it has made our night much more effective.

Make use of good quality resources

There are so many great tools out there for use in a Christian home. Here are a few we use regularly that I love:

  • Scripture songs on CD by Steve Green – These songs are straight Scripture put to music, and have helped us learn many verses that both the kids and I can refer back to in everyday conversations.
  • The One Year Children’s Bible – Last year we read through the whole Bible with our kids using this book. It carefully and accurately presents a condensed version of the Bible in easy to understand language.
  • God’s Wisdom for Little Boys and Girls – These are lovely books for use in devotional times. My kids love them, and will sit and read them to themselves, too.
  • His Mighty Warrior and His Little Princess – Again, nice books to include in a devotional time. I love them, but find them to be aimed at a slightly higher age range than my kids – probably more like 6-8. We still use them, though.
  • Veggie Tales and Penguins books and DVDs – Fun cartoons which teach Biblical morals, stories and Proverbs. I find my Prince especially likes the Penguins DVDs, as they are quite adventure orientated.
  • Creation Ministries and Answers in Genesis– You can find a lot of resources here for both kids and adults. There are DVDs and books on all kinds of topics such as dinosaurs and planets which my Prince finds very interesting.

 

Set goals

Part of being intentional means thinking forward to the end goal of your parenting. One way I do this is to write down a list of goals for each child in three main categories.  Here is an example of some goals I wrote down for my Prince:

  • Spiritual goals
  1. Love God wholeheartedly
  2. Love others unconditionally
  3. Love Scripture & and have consistent Bible study life
  4. Have a deep personal prayer life
  5. Have a ‘ministry mindset’, being a light for the Gospel in whatever he does
  •  Character goals
  1. Love others sincerely
  2. Be able to be a strong leader of family & church, and understand that good leadership is loving and servant-hearted
  3. Be humble
  4. Be generous with money, possessions and time
  5. Be self-controlled and self-disciplined
  6. Able to teach
  7. Hospitable
  8. A peacemaker
  9. Pure
  •  Education goals
  1. Be diligent in doing what he needs to, and completing all work to the best of his ability
  2. Have a good level of education, enabling him to have job security and provide for a family and for those in need
  3. Love learning, not feeling afraid of any topic but rather have a ‘can do’ attitude

What a blessing to be mother to these precious kids!

Once I have these written down I review them from time to time and also write specific ways to train him in those areas, according to his current strengths, weaknesses and abilities.

Being a mother is one of the most wonderful ministries I am blessed to be a part of. As you and I seek to bring our children up in the training of the Lord, may He bless our efforts and grow our children into His image.

The ministry of a mother: part 1, ‘Her home’

In my life I find many opportunities for ministry, but I would like to share some thoughts about just three of them over the next few blog posts: my home, my children and my husband. As a stay-at-home mom these are the biggest areas of ministry in my life, yet often I find they are areas people fail to see as a ministry at all. I am excited to serve God in these ways, and hope that some of what I say will inspire the same in you!

The best place to start any kind of discussion – let alone one on ministry – is Scripture. Here are three I have chosen for today:

  • Proverbs 31:27, speaking of the wife of noble character: “She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.”
  • Titus 2:5, Paul saying that older women of faith should teach the younger women: “to be busy at home”
  • 1 Timothy 5:14, Paul advising young widows: “So I counsel younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander.”

First off, it is clear to me that God desires – to at least some degree – women to take responsibility for managing and caring for their homes. I don’t want to spend time discussing my stance on women working inside and outside the home, but I do want to clarify that there is a Biblical premise at the heart of why I choose homemaking as a ministry in the first place.

Ever since I was in my mid-teens I felt excited by the idea of taking care of my home and family to the best of my abilities. You know that feeling you get when you have a vision of a project which you plan to work hard and excel at? That’s how I felt when I thought about being a stay-at-home wife and mother. I find it so sad that in our modern culture this choice is often seen as a being a weaker, more boring choice than an outside career, and a cop-out to hard work. Rather, I think it should be viewed as Kathy Peel, of The Family Manager describes it,

“We need to take [family management] as seriously as career success, because home is where success really matters.”

So what does it mean to ‘take family management seriously’ and make your home a ministry? The following are some ideas I’ve picked up along my almost-ten years of being a homemaker:

  1. Something I learnt from Linda Dillow’s ‘Creative Counterpart‘ is that whether we realise it or not, each home has its own particular atmosphere. Think of the homes of your friends and relatives and pick an adjective to describe each one. Some homes in my life are ‘productive’, ‘comforting’, ‘relaxed’, ‘free’, ‘worldly’, ‘peaceful’, ‘friendly’ and ‘stressful’. Now think of how you would describe your home. How would your family describe it? How would your visitors describe it?

    One of the ways we use our home to share Scripture. We change it daily, each family member taking a turn. This was one was chosen and written by my Prince, age 5.

    Here is your first ministry opportunity: choose some adjectives you would LIKE your home to exude, and work on making it so. Some I have chosen for my home are ‘God-focused’, ‘loving’, ‘welcoming’, ‘peaceful’ and ‘family-focused’. You’ll have to ask my friends and family how well I’m doing on those…! But it’s a work in progress, and I hope to keep working on it daily 🙂

    One of the most inspirational quotes I have ever read, and which causes me to think about intentionally creating a Godly atmosphere in my home, is this one by Peter Marshall:

    “I was privileged, in the spring, to visit in a home that was to me – and I am sure to the occupants – a little bit of Heaven. There was beauty there. There was a keen appreciation of the finer things of life, and an atmosphere in which it was impossible to keep from thinking of God.” (Emphasis mine, taken from A Woman After God’s Own Heart‘ 2006, pg.155 by Elizabeth George)

  2. To help my home have a positive atmosphere, I find it important to keep it clean and tidy. While this is not how everyone operates (I have many friends whose homes are a joy to be in, but who keep the ‘a clean house is this sign of a wasted life’ motto!), I find it to be valuable in my house. When my house is in order I am less stressed, my kids are more creative, and my husband feels blessed. Everyone has their own ways of tidying. Some people I know do it on a schedule, but I’ve tried that and it doesn’t work for me. Rather, I find it better to do bits and pieces regularly, when they are needed and in between other tasks. I find that I naturally fall into a very vague schedule – for example, I tend to do a bit of an after-weekend-clean-up on Mondays, as I don’t do much of it on Saturdays and Sundays. I also find that I am more motivated to clean the kitchen first thing in the morning rather than last thing at night (I have NO idea why… all I know is it’s true!). I specifically try to tidy up before we go out, and make a special effort to clean and tidy shortly before my husband comes home from work, as I know how much he appreciates walking into order rather than chaos.
  3. Kids being creative on a nice clean floor 🙂

    Lindsey O’Connor, in ‘If Mama Ain’t Happy…Ain’t Nobody Happy’offers some practical ideas of ways to make your house a place of joy. She suggests using candles, pictures and music to help create a positive atmosphere. She also advises taking – and making – lots of opportunities for celebrations and special occasions. To build on these ideas I would encourage you to look at the talents God has given YOU and put them to work in your home. If you are a baker, then bake for the benefit of others. If you love to create things, make things to display God’s love in your home. Wherever your God-given talents lie, I’m sure you can find unique and creative ways to use them to advance the ministry which is your home.

Being a homemaker is a challenge, a joy and a wonderful way to minister to others. So many people are in and out of our homes – why not make the most of every opportunity to be a blessing to them and share God’s love?

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