Revive Our Hearts Podcast

God's Beautiful Design for Women, Day 39

Leslie Basham: Here’s Holly Elliff.

Holly Elliff: “As mothers, we can do nothing to persuade or convince our children to love God. We can dig the ditches, but we can’t fill them. We can teach our children about God, pray for them, live the Christian life before them, and expose them to others who love and serve God. But only God can give them spiritual life.”

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together, for Thursday, March 30, 2017.

For several weeks Nancy has helped us mine for treasures in Titus 2:1–5. It’s full of practical wisdom for women.

Today we’re reviewing some of what we’ve heard, learning how to apply it every day. Pastors’ wives Holly Elliff and Kim Wagner have been listening to this series along with us, and they’ll explain what these principles look like in their lives, continuing a conversation with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: It’s just amazing to me—and I know I’ve said this in this series—that in Titus 2, when God picked seven qualities or characteristics that are supposed to be the discipleship curriculum for younger women, four of them directly relate to the family. And the others certainly contribute. That’s what God places the priority on.

And what are we putting the priority on? So many other things.

I have more women who come to me or write to me—these are young wives and young moms—and they say, “God has really put it on my heart to write books, to teach, to have a ministry.” And I’m thinking, Do you realize what you have?

I tell women, “What you are doing as a wife, as a mom—what I’m doing pales in significance, except that it’s what God has called me to do. But in terms of impact and longevity and multiple generations and the kingdom of God being furthered, as you love your husband, as you love and train your children, as you train younger women, you are furthering the kingdom of God.”

This is huge.

Holly: I think sometimes we want “ministry,” but we forget that we already have ministry. If God has given us children, if God has given us a husband, we have built-in ministry already.

Those things are not an obstacle to me doing ministry. They are my ministry.

That has to be my first ministry. If I can love my husband successfully according to God’s Word, if I can love my children and nurture them in the admonition of the Lord as Scripture says, then I believe God will bring ministry out of the platform of the diligence that I’ve given to those primary areas God has already called me to.

Nancy: I see two ways that that’s worked out in your life, Holly. One is that now that you’re becoming more of an older woman—you still have young children, but there are younger women coming to you and wanting to be taught and trained. They’ve seen in you an example that they’re wanting to follow.

Kim, you have that happening with women in your church as well. But the other thing is what God’s doing through your children.

Holly, I had a chance to be with your family—I think all eight of your kids were there recently for a meal—to see those kids spiritually vibrant and mature and impacting lives that are multiplying Bill’s and your ministry.

Then to think of your first grandchild there a year old, and others to come—probably lots of them, Lord willing, long after you and Bill are gone. And this, we know, is only God’s grace.

Holly: Exactly.

Nancy: And the last chapter hasn’t been written on any of them.

Holly: Right.

Nancy: But at this point they are faithfully walking with the Lord and serving Him, and they have a heart to serve Him. That is not something that “just happened” overnight. Now, it’s not something you and Bill can take all the credit for.

Holly: Any of the credit for.

Nancy: But you have been faithful. And where parents have been faithful, I think they can know that God is going to bless and honor and multiply.

So it’s not like you’ve been loving your children and husband and had no ministry or impact or outreach. It’s huge.

Holly: One author has said,

Mothering is like ditch digging. As mothers we can do nothing to persuade or convince our children to love God. We can dig the ditches, but we can’t fill them. We can teach our children about God, pray for them, live the Christian life before them, and expose them to others who love and serve God. But only God can give them spiritual life. God doesn’t need our help, but in His sovereign plan He invites us to take part actively, to co-labor with Him as He works in their lives.

I heard a story once about a little girl who was frightened at night. The mom kept saying to her, “But, Honey, you don’t have to be afraid, because God is right here with you.”

And she said, “Yes, but I just need somebody with skin on.”

So many times I think we have to be willing to be in the position of being Christ-filled so that they do have a picture that has “skin on.” Many, many times that is hard.

It takes sacrifice. It takes diligence. It takes that self-control that we’ve been talking about. It cannot come from inside us. It has to come from God living out His life in and through us. The tool He uses especially in my life happens to be motherhood.

Motherhood actually becomes one of the tools God uses to shape and mold me; as one author said, “to chisel me for eternity.” So if we recognize that motherhood is part of God’s process . . . it’s not an obstacle to God’s process in my life; it is God’s process in my life.

Nancy: It’s that sanctifying, making you into the image of Christ. Again, that’s as we embrace whatever the calling is in the role God has for our lives; there’s purpose to that, and it is through that that we are sanctified.

It’s as I fulfill my responsibility in studying and in writing and in teaching; that’s “ditch digging”—back-breaking work at times. It’s different than mothering, but it’s my spiritual mothering of women.

If I am not faithful at that, then I forfeit some of the sanctification God wants to bring about in my own life.

Holly: Exactly. Nancy and I at times have written each other emails just hours apart. But mine was written like at 3:30 in the morning.

Nancy: You hadn’t gone to bed yet.

Holly: And Nancy’s was written at 5:00, and she was getting up.

Nancy: Not that I’m usually up at 5:00.

Holly: We laughed about that, because between the two of us we had covered almost a twenty-four-hour period. So our lives are very different.

Nancy gets a lot more time sitting at the Lord’s feet than I do. If I get time with the Lord, it’s going to be in the midst of my life.

I know I’m talking to moms out there who are struggling to even remember where their Bible is, because it’s under a pile of something in their house. We do have to be very, very intentional about getting time to hear God even in the midst of all the stuff that’s going on in our life.

It’s hard sometimes. It takes a lot of intentional focus for that to happen.

Kim Wagner: I think that’s probably the most important aspect of mothering, is that our children see and recognize how important the Word is to their mom—that we’re in the Word, that we’re praying for them.

They recognize that. They see it. It’s foundational. And hopefully, that gives them a desire to put that as a priority in their own lives.

Holly: There are times when I know some of you out there are thinking, I wish I had been faithful to do that, but I haven’t been. You may have some real regret about where you have been in nurturing your children, about getting time with God.

Many years ago a preacher by the name of John Henry Jowett preached a sermon called “Needless Regrets,” and he said this:

Even supposing we have made mistakes and we would dearly like to have the choice back again that we might take the other turning, what then? Who is our God? What are His name and His character?

Can He not knit up the raveled bit of work, and in His own infinitely gracious way make it whole again? It is the very gospel of His grace that He can repair the things that are broken. He can reset the joints of the bruised reed. He can restore the broken heart. He can deal with the broken vow.

And if He can do all this, can He not deal with our mistakes? Will not His infinite love, as we ask, correct our mistakes and make the crooked straight?

I think that’s what brings us hope, because none of us are going to parent perfectly. None of us are going to love our kids correctly. None of us are going to consistently get to God as we should. But God is a redemptive God. He can “knit up the raveled bit of work.”

Kim: That’s encouraging, Holly.

Nancy: You may just need to say, “Lord, there are some things in my life that have been crooked, things where I have failed.” As God points those out to you, He’s not trying to make you live under condemnation; He wants to set you free from that.

But the starting place for that is to be honest with the Lord and say, “You know, my priorities have not been what they should have been,” or, “When my children were little, I wasn’t seeking You in the way that I now realize is important.”

So what do you do?

  • You go back to the Lord; you’re honest with Him, and you confess that.
  • You repent of it, and you say, “Lord, by Your grace, would You restore? Would You bring order and sense out of where we are today? We give you these pieces and this mess and say, ‘Lord, only You can restore and renew.’”
  • Then you wait on the Lord. You know that God deals in the realm of eternity. The story is not over.

I have dear friends right now who are godly parents facing challenges with teenage or young adult children. They’re waiting for the Lord to turn on the light and to turn their hearts.

God is able. You keep crying out to the Lord and depending on Him and seeking Him to do what only a great, redeeming God can do.

Holly: I would also encourage those moms who may recognize today that God is putting His finger on some area of your heart. As God touches that thing and says, “Look at this,” ask Him these questions:

  • What did I do that wasn’t pleasing to You?
  • What could have been done differently?
  • What do I need to repent of?

Realize that God will not leave you there without hope. His desire is to bring change so that next year you will not look back with the same regret that you have this year.

There is never a moment when it’s too late to appropriate God’s grace. So if last year was crummy and you failed at doing what God had called you to do, and God now has given you the opportunity to see that clearly, He can redeem that as you make choices for next year. So as you move ahead, you will be able to look back someday and say, “By God’s grace those things have changed in my life, and I am not in the same place I was.”

Nancy: We’ve talked about the noble mission of motherhood and shaping hearts for eternity and passing the baton of truth from one generation to the next. This is a vision we’re trying to instill in moms to let them know that what they’re doing is crucial, and they need to be seeking the Lord themselves.

These are all the high and noble and lofty aspects of mothering. Yet there are those very practical, daily, real, “non-spiritual” aspects of homemaking, of life as a woman of God in whatever season of life you’re in.

There are a lot of things in serving others, in keeping a home, that don’t seem to have any particular spiritual meaning attached to them. We’ve talked some in this series about the fact that those things do have spiritual meaning.

But I’d love to hear from you women. You have homes; you have kids who need clothes, and husbands and kids who get hungry occasionally.

In some of the practical household management serving tasks, how do you serve with joy? How do you see purpose in that?

Do you find yourself sometimes thinking, “This isn’t that meaningful”? That’s a temptation we all have. It’s a basic tendency toward discontentment and wanting something other than what we have.

How do you do those things, not neglect them, and yet see purpose and meaning, and do them with joy?

Kim: Part of it goes along with not wanting to have regret as you look back. You are intentional about loving your family, serving your family in ways that you have opportunity today to do. You don’t want to live with regret that you didn’t do that.

I have a good friend who mentions quite often that she has a great regret. She was a single mom who worked, and she didn’t do the simple thing of getting up in the morning to give her son breakfast before he went to school.

She said, “He didn’t go without breakfast. He fixed himself cereal, and we were running out the door together.” But she didn’t prepare a meal for him and sit down and have breakfast with him.

I’m so glad she told me that as a young mom, because that has been—well, when I homeschooled, of course I had my children at home, but now I no longer do that, and my son goes off to school in the morning.

This week he spent the night with a friend. When he came home the next day, he said, “Mom, his mom didn’t get up to fix us breakfast.”

It’s not anything that my son demands or expects. Many times he knows when I’ve had a late night, and he’ll say, “You don’t have to get up and fix me breakfast.” But I know that that is an important thing to him, for us to have that time together in the morning.

I’ve heard you say this before, Nancy, and you, Holly, and I’ve tried to do this: Be a student of the members of your family. Learn what brings them joy. Learn what communicates love to them.

It’s not just love coming from you. It is Christ’s love through you as you serve them. You may not enjoy cooking. You may not enjoy washing clothes.

Nancy: Well, some of the things you do—house cleaning—are not necessarily things that your children are going to have a great appreciation for until they have homes of their own. They may not even be aware that you’re doing those things.

Yet they’re part of keeping a household running. How do you do that “as unto the Lord”?

Holly: You know what? When I was twenty, those were not things on my list. I was going to be a clinical speech pathologist and drive a little red sports car. That was on my list.

Over the years I have had to struggle to surrender each of those things to the Lord. As He brought them into my life, first it was just in the area of being a wife and realizing that I was called to love my husband.

These are not things that were inborn in my nature or that came easily to me. And they really were not things that I had a particularly strong desire to do.

Nancy: You had a desire to love your husband, but you’re talking about some of the practical . . .

Holly: Oh, I was madly in love with my husband. But when it came to picking up his dirty socks off the floor . . .

Kim: Or just keeping your bedroom clean. I did not keep a neat bedroom as a teenager.

I know we have some teenage girls here today. I hope that you all start now, as Nancy has taught, looking at your bedroom as your future home.

I didn’t like cleaning up my room at home, but I’ve learned one way to do it with joy is to look at how much better, how much more pleasant an atmosphere you can have if you have a neat, orderly bedroom. I think that should be a priority for wives. I really do.

I think your husband should come home to his bedroom and that be a place he enjoys hanging out in and he feels good about. He doesn’t have to pick up all the baskets of laundry to make his way to the bed.

Now, I’m not saying he never has to . . .

Holly: I just have to interrupt you for a minute here, because as I left this morning, I dumped two loads of laundry on my bed in my bedroom. So I’m laughing as Kim is giving this illustration.

Kim: I’m not saying you can always do that perfectly. I’m not.

Holly: But I think the bottom line goal is that as you mature in Christ, which all of us are doing no matter what season of life we’re in—we are all, Lord willing, maturing in our understanding of what Christ has called us to.

So as that happens in your life, we need to realize, if those things are priorities, then God has called me to take my brain that was going to be a clinical speech pathologist and apply those things God has put in my head to becoming a student of: How do I do this better? How I can establish a schedule?

If you have a bunch of kids in your home, it is tremendously hard to keep your home in a position where you can live there without killing anybody. So sometimes it means that I have to become a student of organization. I have to become a student of the best way to clean my house.

There are tremendous resources on the Internet now. If you know you’re not good at that and that’s a constant source of stress, get online. Go to some of these websites that give you hands-on tips on how to do that.

Nancy: Go to an older woman.

Kim: That’s what I was going to say. There’s a lady in our church, a godly older woman—she was a widow for awhile. She’s married now. But she would take your book, the little Portrait of Biblical Womanhood booklet, and she would get with a young, newly married woman and go through that, for the spiritual aspect first.

Then she would say, “Now I’m going to come to your home, and I’m going to show you how to clean your house, how to make some meals.” It’s been really beautiful to watch these young women that have just flourished from her doing that with them—the spiritual and the practical.

Holly: It’s like Paul saying in the New Testament, “The things that you see in me, you practice these things.” It’s because a lot of this doesn’t come naturally. We have to learn it, and we have to practice it.

The more we yield ourselves to God implementing those things in our lives, the less they are wasted effort. They are part of what God has called us to for our family.

We have a motto at our house, and that is that people are always more important than things. So if it comes down to me needing to sit down with a child and listen or me doing another load of laundry, it’s more important for me to sit down with that child and listen. But that may mean that I’m up at midnight doing the load of laundry.

So I think allowing God to give us His sense of order . . . Now, my house will never look like a Martha Stewart home. It will never be all totally straight at once, probably. As far as I can see in the near future, it will never be that way.

So I have to be a woman who goes to the Lord, and that’s where that time with the Lord is so critical, because I have to have time to go to the Lord and say, “Lord, You show me today what matters. You show me what has to happen for us to be able to live here in peace, and then You give me direction even as I move throughout my day.”

If you look at the life of Christ in the New Testament, He is always adjusting His schedule as He walks through His day. There were times when Christ had an agenda that changed; God brought people into His path, or He felt compelled to turn around and go back to that multitude.

Some of you, like me, have a multitude in your home. So God may turn you to things that you did not intend to be doing that day.

It’s critical for us to be women who are flexible enough to hear from the Lord and then do what He says, but always with the attitude that the people in our home are more important than the things in our home.

Leslie Basham: Holly Elliff has been helping you think through priorities. When every task feels urgent, it’s nice to know that you can turn to the Bible. It will help you put first things first.

A Revive Our Hearts listener wrote to tell us how she appreciates the way this program points her to God’s Word. Jolene said:

I am a first time mom to an eleven-month-old, so I've been pretty busy adjusting and have felt like I've been in a barren wasteland for a little bit. 

This mom told us she wanted to develop a more passionate love for the Lord. Then, we aired a series on how to develop a closer relationship with Him. She wrote,

I knew it was an answer to my prayer! I have spent the past week studying along with tears streaming down my face. I am feeling His presence in the way that I knew I so desperately needed. I am so excited for what is to come, and I want ALL of my sisters in Christ to experience this too! 

We want all of our sisters to experience the power of God’s Word as well. But we can’t spread this message without your help.

Nancy: We’re able to be online thanks to those who support the program financially. And we’re facing a challenge. Support from listeners has been down for several months and we need to fill a serious budget gap. Our leadership team is considering what ministry cuts may need to be made.

But you can help meet that need and make up that difference by supporting the ministry. When you donate any amount this week, we’ll say "thanks" by sending you a book called Together: Growing Appetites for God. It’s all about ways moms can connect with their kids by reading the Bible together. Ask for Together by Carrie Ward when you call with a gift of any amount. The number is 1–800–569–5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

What effect will hypocrisy have on your children? Learn to speak words of life in front of your children, and teach them to do the same, tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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