Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Dannah Gresh: Emily Jensen had a picture in her mind of what a godly mother should look like, but then she discovered . . .

Emily Jensen: I wasn’t really focused on the heart. Very quickly I realized that not only did I not measure up to those things on the outside, but on the inside I was shocked at my own weakness.

Leslie Basham: It’s November 5, 2019, and you’re listening to Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, along with Dannah Gresh.

Dannah: So how can the good news about Jesus affect your role as a mom? That’s something Nancy and our guests are exploring all this week on Revive Our Hearts. Let’s listen together.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Well, we are in the middle of a fascinating, captivating conversation with two precious women that I’m so excited for our Revive Our Hearts audience to meet. Some of you already know them: Emily Jensen and Laura Wifler, connected with Risen Motherhood.

Actually, that is the ministry God birthed through these two women who are young moms with young children and going through all the challenges that young moms with young children do go through. We’re talking about how the gospel speaks to that . . . and every season of life.

They have written a book called Risen Motherhood: Gospel Hope for Everyday Moments. And we’re making that available to any of our listeners this week who make a donation of any amount to the ministry of Revive Our Hearts.

We’re speaking to a lot of young women through this ministry. And you may know some young moms. Get them listening to this series. You might say, “I’m not in that season.” But there’s some young moms in your church or in your family that you need to encourage. They need and want the encouragement that you can give, and this book would be a great resource to give for them if you’re not in the season of life where it’s something that would be timely for you.

So, Emily and Laura, welcome back to Revive Our Hearts.

Laura Wifler: Aw, thank you.

Emily: Yes. It’s a joy to be here.

Laura: Yes. Thanks for having us.

Nancy: We got going yesterday, and then we looked at the clock and said, “Did all that time pass?”

Emily: It went so quickly!

Nancy: As we had dinner together before we started these days of recording . . . (I wish all of our listeners could have been sitting with us at the table.) We’re all have full hearts and are fast talkers. But it’s so energizing and encouraging to know that the things you’re walking through, you’re not walking through alone.

You’ve come alongside each other and other women in your Risen Motherhood community, to be community, to be sisterhood, to let each other know that the things you’re facing, the challenges. I wonder how many mothers have that first display of realization that there’s anger in their hearts, and they think, I’m the only mom who ever yelled at her kid.

To realize that others deal with the same fleshly, natural instincts—and they love their kids like crazy, but sometimes their kids drive them crazy. To have each other is such a gift. You’re coming alongside other young moms and doing that for them.

I hope that this series on Revive Our Hearts will be of great encouragement to some younger women that you may know, that you can point them to this.

Risen Motherhood. That’s an interesting title. How did you come up with that and what does it mean?

Emily: As we were thinking about the gospel and motherhood, I think one topic we kept coming back to was that we are made a new creation in Christ, and that He was risen from the dead, and that is going to be us someday, too. He’s promised to return, and we are going to be raised from the dead. And it’s just this reality that: What does life look like in light of that truth?

And I think, as we were discussing that, my husband threw out, “Not risen motherhood!” And it stuck, and we thought that just captured that we’re in that already but not yet.

Nancy: Meaning, just for those who haven’t heard that term . . .

Emily: We’re already saved. We’re saved from the punishment of sin, but we are not yet with Christ forever in eternity.

Nancy: Glorified.

Emily: Yes. Glorified, where everything is going to be made new. We are still wrestling with sin, and we’re living in a broken world. So what would it look like for us, as moms, to be walking like our risen Savior in the midst of all of the brokenness around us?

Laura: One of our taglines is: Living in light of the resurrection. So just the idea that we recognize that the cross mattered and it has an impact. And because of what Jesus did, as Emily said, we’re a new creation. That means that we have the power of the Holy Spirit to help us, to change our attitude, change our perspective.

And we live with that eternal perspective, knowing that, as Emily said, not yet, but someday we will be glorified. We will be reunited with our Savior. And that is a hope that moms can cling to in the midst of a difficult day, knowing that someday—this is not all that there is. This is not the end of the road for them, but there is a far greater hope and a beautiful thing that awaits them.

Nancy: I’m thinking of Romans chapter 8 as I’m hearing both of you talk and how you see this all through the Scripture. The apostle Paul, particularly in that chapter, talks about the battle between the flesh and the spirit—and you don’t have to be a mom to get that.

Anybody who knows Jesus knows that there’s this pull of the spirit and there’s this pull of the flesh. And they pull in opposite directions. Sometimes you feel that your flesh is so strong, but you want to give in to the spirit, but sometimes you feel like you can’t. And there’s that battle that goes on that. And, really, the non-Christian doesn’t have that battle. They just do what the flesh wants to do. Right?

But then I love how Paul always takes it to the future hope that we keep in front of us. Emily, you’ve got five children, seven and under; and Laura, you’ve got three children, six and under. And I think that’s the most exhausting season of a woman’s life. There’s no break. It’s 24/7, really. Sleep is overrated you kind of tell yourself in that season.

But to have before you in that—or any season—the hope that Paul says, for example, in Romans 8:18, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time . . .” Whatever they may look like. Maybe your kids are teenagers and this is the tough season for you. Maybe you’re an empty-nester now, and it’s a whole new season for you. Young adult kid issues can be as challenging, or more, than toddler issues or teen issues. Maybe it’s not having children at or being widowed or divorced or a single mom. Paul says, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time [whatever they are] they are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

So why is that? It’s because Jesus didn’t just die and stay in the grave. He rose from the dead. And we will follow Him. We will be raised with Him, and there will be glory. So in those really mundane, inglorious days, you feed your heart and fuel your heart with the hope that this isn’t it.

Laura: I love that. And I also think in Romans 8 it talks about how our spirits can cry out, “Abba, Father!” because we’ve been adopted as daughters of the King.

I think, for a mom, and in any area of motherhood, anywhere along the path, that is a wonderful hope that we can approach the throne like a child approaching their father. He welcomes us. That, to me, has just been such great hope that when I feel shame or guilt or like I’ve just messed up as a mom.

I think most moms deep in their souls somewhere know that they’re not enough, that they don’t have everything it takes to be a perfect mom or to raise these kids to know the Lord. We can come to the throne and cry out, “Abba, Father!” And in those moments when we don’t know what to say . . . I think there are times when I’m, like, “Lord, I don’t know. I just need help. I don’t even know how to ask for it or what exactly I need help in. I just know I can’t do it.”

The Holy Spirit cries out with our spirit. And that’s what it talks about in Romans 8, and that’s been such an encouragement that when we can’t articulate our needs, when we don’t even know where to turn. The Spirit is moving and crying out on our behalf, and we can come and know that there is peace and hope and joy and transformation for us and that there is just so much more to this life. I think that is just such a gift of being a believer and being a child of God.

Emily: Yes. The intro to our show talks about how one minute we feel like we’re doing a good enough job, and the next moment we feel like the worst mom on the planet. And that is so true. And I’ll just say that, for Laura and I, who’ve been rehearsing the gospel in motherhood for, like, four years now, we still need it over and over and over again. I think this isn’t a one-time truth.

Nancy: And if you ever get to the place where you think you’ve got it and you don’t need more of it, then you need it.

Emily: I think one of our heartbeats is that, no matter how many times I’ve thought about what “no condemnation in Christ Jesus” means or crying out “Abba, Father,” I’m going to go home from this wonderful recording, we’ve gotten to stay in a lovely room in a lovely place, and back to my children, and maybe five minutes after I walk in the door . . .

Nancy: Or less.

Emily: Or less! I’m going to feel frustration, or there might be a tense moment with someone. I’m going to have to turn around again and remember, “Okay, who am I? Whose am I? And what does that mean for me?” And I’m going to turn again, keep turning back to the Father.

I also love that idea of we’re not saved to just be independent, on our own, and we’ll figure it out. We’re saved into a family. And that’s where we need others around us, to remind us, when we’re weak and can’t even see . . . “Man, I’m just so blinded by the cloud of circumstances that I’m in.” We need sisters. We need brothers. We need mothers in the faith and fathers in the faith to just really remind us of the truth of the Word and let that do its work.

Nancy: And you all have had a lot of those kinds of people in your life. I feel sorry for women who are trying to do this alone, who don’t have church family, who aren’t really . . . I don’t mean just sitting in a church service on Sunday—that’s a starting place—but women who aren’t connected to others who share their heart and their longings and want to pursue Christ with them.

We stimulate one another to love and good deeds and to remember the gospel. And when I forget it, I need people in my life who will remind me of what I know to be true, but I just lost sight of.

Before you were mothers, you were college students, and then you got married. Before you started having children, what were you thinking about motherhood? What were your expectations? That’s what I want to get to, how expectations can actually defeat us. What did you think motherhood was going to be like? What kind of mothers did you think you would be? And then my next question will be: How did reality . . . what did it do to your expectations or your ideals or what you thought it was going to be like?

Emily: This is so interesting when I look back. Now, in hindsight, I wonder where I got all the different ideas that I had? But I think there was a season when I first got married where I viewed children, this is very candid, but just maybe as an inconvenience or as something to put off for a while because I wanted to have fun or travel or do some different things with my husband. I think we’d said, “Oh, we’re going to wait five years and then maybe we’ll think about it.”

So that was the first work of the Lord in my own heart to just see this as a gift and as a joy and as part of a mission that my husband and I could have together to raise disciples and to pass along the gospel to the next generation and in our church family as well, wherever He would have us, but to biological children if He would give those to us.

And then once I got a hold of that idea, I built this whole perfect idea of what Christian motherhood looked like. I think I pulled that from a number of different sources. Some of it was older women that I really admired or peers at my church. I had chickens in the back yard and a certain number of kids, and I baked bread. I could almost list out for you what that looked like.

Nancy: What you thought it would look like.

Emily: Oh yes. What I was aspiring for. It’s so interesting because I was really living to try to be this external model of the way that I lived my life on a daily basis. But I wasn’t really focused on the heart, like: What would my heart be like? And then: What was God doing in our unique family and how was that going to translate?

So it was just really interesting because, of course, very quickly I realized that not only did I not measure up to those things on the outside . . . I wasn’t making bread. I definitely didn’t have chickens. Children were more overwhelming than I thought. Whatever those things were. But on the inside I was shocked at my own weakness that I had.

I remember sitting on the couch one day. I have this picture of when I had twins. I have one on the couch in this pillow, and I was holding the bottle. And then I had another one in my arm, and I was holding a bottle. Then I had a toddler at my knees, and he’s, like, pushing the babies and saying, “Mom! Get up! Get up!” And I’m just thinking, Wow! I need a lot of help here. And my heart is really what needs a lot of help.

Nancy: What was happening in your heart?

Emily: I think just overwhelmed and feeling incredibly weak and feeling like I didn’t have what it was going to take just to get to the next hour at that point.

Nancy: Okay. I want to come back to how the gospel spoke into that. But, Laura, when you think about your expectations or ideals or what you pictured motherhood being like for you . . .

Laura: I had similar visions of Emily, particularly, I would be just sort of a Stepford Wife, in a way. I would have the great dinner on the table each night. It would be healthy and wholesome. I would throw great birthday parties, and my home would be well decorated. I was very efficient with my time, and I was the hostess with the mostest. And my kids were just all orderly, like, almost the Von Trapp family. I had pictures like that in my mind.

Nancy: So they could sing, too.

Laura: That’s right! You know they could! That was definitely the image that I had. It was just outward appearances.

Nancy: I’m curious as to (and I think I know the answer), but I want us to address it: Where did these ideals come from? Where did these pictures come from? What do you think informed them?

Laura: I think it was a series of things growing up. A lot of it, I would say, social media was on the rise at the time. So certainly there are idyllic pictures of families that are homeschooling, have children, and bake bread. And you don’t see the arguments and the fights or the stresses, the financial strain—different things like that. You don’t see that on social media. You just see the fruit, the product that these . . .

Nancy: If it’s even real.

Laura: If it’s even real.

Emily: You got on Pinterest boards. Pinterest was really big when we were being moms. Like, you would pin all the different things: These are the outdoor activities I want to do, the toddler activities, the crafts. It would help organize everything and . . .

Laura: There’s just a perfect way for everything.

Emily: If these activities . . . you can achieve them if you don’t have children.

Nancy: Actually, you probably can’t. I don’t have children, and they’re so unrealistic.

Emily: That’s right. And culture, I mean, media, watching TV, reading magazines. I mean, I remember looking through House Beautiful. I love design and decor. They’d have these beautiful homes that I wanted to aspire to someday when we had more financial means. And the reality is, that’s just not practical with children. Like, even if I could afford it, it wouldn’t be a wise decision for our family or wise input of our time.

So I think we just collect these things. And our friends as well influence you—what they’re talking about, what they’re interested in. You get kind of swept up. If you’re all talking about the same things, you start thinking, Well, I need that, too. And, That’s how I should be. I better strive for that.

Nancy: And it raises the question of—whether it’s that season of life and that ideal or another season of life where you have . . . Maybe you’re a single woman in a professional career. There are aspirations and pressures to perform. But it raises the question of: Why do I want those things? What’s my motivation?

As you think back in those days, and as God began to plumb the depths of your hearts, what were some of the things you started to see that had been behind those? I’m not saying it’s all sinful to want a pretty house or well-behaved kid. But it feels like it sometimes comes down to pride. Right? To how I’m going to look to the image I portray to others. Did you start to sense that in your own hearts?

Emily: Yes. I think there was this sense that motherhood is such a huge responsibility. You see that, “Okay, I’m supposed to be caring for their hearts and their bodies and helping them make wise choices, and all these different things. It’s like if I fail at this, does this mean I’m a failure as a person at the deepest level? Like, if I can’t do motherhood right, what does that say about me?”

So I think that there’s this real need to grapple with that at a deep level and say, “My identity is not found in how I mother and the way that I carry out all these different things. It’s rooted in Christ.”

Motherhood is one important calling that He’s given me, but I need to keep my eyes fixated on Him and be anchored to Him because that is going to allow me to keep walking it, because I am going to fail, and I’m not going to be good enough. But God can work in and through even my failure, even my sin, Lord willing, to show my children Jesus day in and day out, even as I confess that and say that to them. “Mommy didn’t say that right,” or “I’m sorry,” or whatever those different things look.

I can just be hopeful when that’s where my eyes are fixed, to say, “Yes, Lord. You can use a sinner like me. Thank goodness I don’t have to have it all together, but You do.”

Nancy: You’re talking, again, in the young-children season of life, but we have some women listening right now to this conversation whose children are teens or young adults or older and are far from the Lord—prodigals.

These are moms, grandmoms who cry themselves to sleep at night with heavy hearts over the waywardness of their children. And the enemy does a number on so many of these moms, overwhelming them with guilt, with recriminations, with, “If only you had been a different mother, a better mother.”

Any mother—or dad—or person for that matter . . . We are sinful. Right? But there are some moms who just need to get set free, that your identity as a woman isn’t now in how your kids have turned out. If you could be the best mom, baking the bread, having the chickens, doing the Pinterest-perfect home, that doesn’t guarantee your children are going to have a heart for Christ.

Laura: We always say, “Look at the garden.” Adam and Eve had a perfect Father that was there with them.

Nancy: And a picture-perfect home.

Laura: Yes. They had a picture-perfect home, and they took and ate and disobeyed their Father. So I think that can help us take heart. We are in no way going to be like the Lord, and His children were wayward. I think that’s where we put our hope in Him. He knows the story, and He is sovereign over the story, and we can trust Him with the outcome.

Nancy: Well, I think you’ve come to realize, too, as I’ve read what you’ve written and heard you talk, you realize that what your children most need is not the things that maybe were all a part of that picture you had before you had children. In order to become who God wants them to be, in order for them to experience the gospel and to love Christ, they may not need all those things, all those experiences that you hoped to provide for them, all the things that moms can guilt each other about—whether you do it this way or that way on some of the types of issues that you’ve brought up. Having this quiet, peaceful home isn’t necessarily what your children most need.

What they most need is to see the gospel at work in the midst of a sinful place. So if your home could be perfect—which it can’t be—your children might never realize how much they need a Savior.

Emily: That’s right. I think that that is, for me, personally . . . I have often pursued that perfection, that outward facade. I tend to be a fairly Type-A person. I’m very driven. I think I shared in a previous episode, I struggle with being self-reliant. I struggle with thinking, Well, I’ll just pull up my boot straps and figure it out and go.

That was something that I realized: What do my kids need most from me? Do they need the amazing first birthday party—which I could possibly pull off at a time or two? Or do they need a mom that loves them well and who’s willing to say, “I’m sorry.” A mom who’s willing to say, “You know what? We’re not going to do this part of the birthday party because it’s just too stressful. I’m not able to pull it off. Maybe we’ll do something small and simple,” and then do affirmation around the table because that means so much more than this big, elaborate party at a pool.

I think, for me, it comes down to sometimes weighing some of those decisions: Could I pull this off? Maybe, but would I be a mom that shows the gospel to my kids in the midst of it? Probably not.

Nancy: And would that thing—you might pull off, even if you could be Superwoman in that moment—is that what your child really needs?

Emily: And would it even matter?

I feel that’s helped me weigh some decisions of what really matters. Is this touching their hearts and their souls, or is this just kind of creating a little child that gets everything they want and everything does look like Pinterest around them? And what is it doing for my own soul? Am I being dependent on the Lord in this situation, or am I depending on myself?

I have appreciated that the Lord has allowed me to fall many times in motherhood where stuff didn’t go well, things got ruined. I thought I could do something, and in the end, it just didn’t work out. Those moments have really shown me my limitations, that I’m not a deity, I’m not god. And I’m so grateful that I serve a bigger God that catches me when I fall and provides everything I need.

And that helps me to turn and repent and change and be able to show my children the mercies that God has shown me.

And I don’t want to say that having an amazing birthday party for your children is wrong at all. I think that those are good gifts we can give our children, and they can be huge blessings for our families and those around us and those that we invite. But I think what we have to look back to is the heart motivations in doing them and what’s fueling the desire to want to do that. Is that faithfulness to the gospel, or is it that fear of failure, of not being the perfect mom?

Nancy: Okay, I’ve got to stop this conversation—again. We’ll go on and continue this in the next episode of Revive Our Hearts. I hope that your heart is being stirred by the implications of the gospel for you as a woman in whatever season of life God finds you.

And, again, I want to encourage you, if you know some young moms—I’m sure you do—to let them know about this series. Send them to ReviveOurHearts.com. We’ll also link there to Risen Motherhood. That’s a ministry we recommend. We want to encourage young moms to get connected.

We’d love to send you a copy of Laura and Emily’s book, Risen Motherhood: Gospel Hope for Everyday Moments. We’ll send that to you as our way of saying “thank you” when you make a donation of any amount to support the ministry of Revive Our Hearts this week. Just give us a call at 1–800–569–5959, or visit us at ReviveOurHearts.com. Go to donate there. Let us know the gift God’s putting on your heart to make, and then also let us know you’d like to get a copy of Laura and Emily’s book, Risen Motherhood.

I want to get this message in the hearts and this book in the hands of a lot of young moms. And older moms who are mentors, and faithful women who are discipling and encouraging the younger moms in your life; this is something that will encourage you in your season of life, but it will also give you a tool to minister into the lives of women who are right in the thick of this right now.

Dannah: Thanks, Nancy. A lot of moms struggle when they have a baby or two or three because becoming a mommy changes our bodies.

Nancy: We’re going to pick up the conversation tomorrow here on Revive Our Hearts, and lots more. I know that already our listeners are being just caught up in this conversation. And if you know some young moms, get them listening to this podcast. They can go back toReviveOurHearts.com to the archives and catch it if they missed yesterday’s conversation.

We’re going to talk about some things that young moms do wrestle with—postpartum body image, self-care: How do I make sure my own needs are met? How do you protect your marriage when you’re having all these young children? We’re going to get into some of those things. How does the gospel give freedom, hope, and help—not for a perfect life but for a Christ-honoring and Christ-centered life—when we continue this conversation.

So be sure and join us tomorrow for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants to help you focus on Jesus in every season of life. It’s an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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