Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Motherhood Under Attack

Leslie Basham: Erin Davis and her husband delayed having children while busy in youth ministry.

Erin Davis: I feel like there are lots of young people who feel like it’s the right thing to do to not have children so that they can have a ministry.

Leslie: But she’s had a change of heart.

Erin: Having children is a ministry.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Tuesday, July 8, 2014.

All this month, you’re getting a chance to know the authors in the True Woman line of books.  Here’s Nancy to tell you about one of those True Woman writers.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Our guest this week on Revive Our Hearts is my good friend Erin Davis. She’s been a part of the Revive Our Hearts/True Woman Movement for a number of years, and she loves the Lord. She loves her husband. She loves her children. She’s a gifted writer, and I’m so thrilled she’s written this latest book called, Beyond Bath Time: Embracing Motherhood as a Sacred Role.

Welcome back to Revive Our Hearts, Erin.

Erin: Thank you.

Nancy: I'm looking at the cover of this book, Beyond Bath Time, and it has a picture of this darling little floaty duck. It is something every mom with little kids has seen and has a picture of. How did you come up with the picture and the title? What made you think of the whole concept of Beyond Bath Time?

Erin: The idea is that that snapshot covers every home in America where there are small children. The towels are not all neatly folded, nor are they all clean; there are soapsuds on the floor; there's a duck. Bath time is one of those things that especially parents with young children, it's just part of the daily routine.

At my house it gets very splashy. The bathroom gets very wet. It's hard for me to think of bath time as anything significant.

We thought of lots of different ideas: Beyond Mac 'n Cheese, Beyond Peanut Butter and Jelly, Beyond the Sandbox. Those things that just every parent knows. They are part of every family's rhythm of life. Every mom can feel like, "All I do is bathe kids. All I do is make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. All I do is shuffle a van full of boys to soccer practice." But I want moms to think beyond that. I want them to have a kingdom view, a kingdom vision of their role as a mother—including those mundane little things that all moms have to do.

Nancy: That whole mindset is really counter-cultural—which is what we are all about at True Woman and Revive Our Hearts. You're swimming upstream to say to moms that what you do really matters as a mom. Even those mundane things add up to something that really matters. There is a lot of evidence in the culture that people don't so much think that motherhood really matters.

Erin: There is plenty of evidence in the culture that motherhood is under attack. Motherhood is on the decline. I have a few statistics in my book: 46% of the public says that it makes no difference if a number of women have no children. How can it make no difference that women are not having children? But half of the public says it doesn't matter.

This is something I encounter a lot when I work with teens. Only 9% of teenagers say that they definitely plan to have a family—only 9%. I don't know how far we would have to go back to find a different story, but I don't think it is very far.

Even when I was a teenager, of course I was going to have a family, of course I was going to be married and have children. I may not have thought it through, but there was no assumption that I wouldn't do that. Now only 9% of teenagers think they will be parents ever?

Nancy: Do you think there are a lot that are saying, "I don't want to have children"?

Erin: Absolutely. I know there are a lot saying, "I don't want to have children." I interact with young women all the time in various capacities. They say, "I don't ever want to be a mom." The reason they tell me that is because, "I want to have a career." Career is king. If women have to choose between having a career or having children, they are choosing career.

Nancy: Of course, there are those who would say you can do it all.

Erin: Maybe you can have it all, but you can't have it all at the same time. At least not in the boxes that culture is telling us to put it in.

In the interest of full disclosure, let me tell you that I am a working mom. I'm a writer and a speaker, so I have income. But most of the time, I'm home with my children. That is my job. I am the CEO of my household for right now. That is the filter through which those other working opportunities come through. Can I do this and still mother my children well? Can I do this and it still be for a betterment of my family? I think a lot of the time the filter is reversed. Can I do this and still have a career? Can I have these children and still climb the corporate ladder in the way that I want to do it?

So that shifting of priorities is counter-cultural. We have youth in our house pretty frequently. A sophomore in high school told me just recently, "You guys are so old-fashioned." And we're not. We're modern people. So I said, "What's old-fashioned about us?" He was talking about that fact that I'm home with the kids. To him that was an extremely old-fashioned, out-of-date, weird idea.

Nancy: What I love about the way you write about this subject, you’re doing it as a younger woman speaking into this culture, and you’re saying the issue isn’t really: Do you have a job? Do you not have a job? It’s not that those things don’t matter, but you’re asking us to look at it from a bigger picture and say: What are the motivations? What are my priorities? What am I living for? And to think in a more cosmic sense of how my choices today impact my life down the road, impact others’ lives, and impact generations to come.

Erin: Sure, and the focus of this book is for moms. I'm not writing to convince the 91% of teenagers who don't want children. But I have a heart for them. But this book is for moms because my friends are moms, many of them stay-at-home moms. Because they don’t have God’s vision for motherhood, they’re drowning. They’re in a tailspin. They are bitter. They are angry. They are stressed. They are sleep deprived, or they’re sleeping all the time. They are really, really struggling.

They are moms, but they don’t understand the kingdom mindset of motherhood. And so bath time and peanut butter sandwiches and car pools and chore charts and all of those things are just sucking the life out of them.

Nancy: You said that you wrote this book because you needed to find out for yourself why motherhood really matters.

Erin: That’s right. Any book I’ve ever written has been born out of my own personal experience and the work that God has done in me.

I’m not trying to establish myself as an expert mother. I certainly am not. But I can say, “Look, I’ve been there, and I was struggling, too, and I went to the Word, and I said, ‘God, what do You have to say about motherhood?’”

That well was so much deeper than I ever could have imagined. My expectation was that I could find the Proverbs 31 woman, and that would be about all I’d find in the Bible about motherhood, and that is so not true. He speaks about motherhood over and over and over in these passages of Scripture where you wouldn’t really expect there to be a message about motherhood, but God has a heart for motherhood.

He has a heart for mothers. He has a heart for families, and He doesn’t think it’s little. He thinks it’s really, really big. Go to the Word and ask Him to show you His vision, His plan for what you’re doing. I think you’ll be so encouraged, so strengthened for the journey.

Nancy: And it has been a journey for you because the things you’re saying now, you weren’t talking that way when we first met. In fact, I was with you when you were expecting that first child, and you were still a little tentative about . . . You were saying the right things, but it was a challenge for you to really embrace motherhood as a sacred calling.

In fact, you and Jason made a choice in the early years of your marriage not to have children. Tell us a little bit about that season.

Erin: We chose childlessness for seven years of marriage, and many people pressed us on it in those seven years, and our response was that we didn’t want to have children because we felt so passionate about student ministry. We felt like that was part of the sacrifice we needed to make to be great student ministers. I think we came up with that idea from lots of different sources. I think we were wrong, but I feel like there are lots of young people who feel like it’s the right thing to do to not have children so that they can have a ministry.

That was really the tug-of-war in my heart. I didn’t want to have children because I didn’t want to give up a ministry. What I didn’t understand is that having children is a ministry, and I wasn’t giving up doing something important for the Lord by having children.

Nancy: I can’t tell you how many times over the years I’ve had women come up to me and say, “I want to have a ministry. I want to have a ministry like yours. I want to be teaching. I want to be writing,” just different things that are on their hearts to do.

I think many of those desires may have been placed there by God, but what I’ve really tried to help them understand is what you are doing in that home as a helper to your husband, as a mom to your kids, that is nothing less than ministry. It’s a huge ministry, and be careful not to just put that in a box, like, “That’s my family, but then, I’m, like, dying for the day when I can get free to really do ministry.”

There is no greater higher calling to ministry, in the will and timing of God, than what you’re doing right now with those two little ones God’s put in your home.

Erin: And that’s the lesson I’ve learned. My husband and I have been student pastors for a really long time, and I have a writing and speaking ministry, and teenagers were my ministry. So I’ve impacted, I hope, hundreds of teenagers over the years. But none of that even holds a candle to these children who I pour into day in and day out.

If those children—my children—go on to raise Christian children, and my grandchildren go on to share faith with their children, that impact is so much greater than a girl who is impacted by a lesson I give at a retreat or someone who reads a book that I wrote. It impacts their thinking for a little while. It certainly is a ministry, but motherhood is counter-cultural, and not a lot of people are saying that.

Nancy: And the thing with motherhood is you don’t see the fruit and the rewards or the gain of it right away.

Erin: That’s right. Right.

Nancy: You’re still tied up with bath time and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. You have to be in it for the long haul and have a vision for the long haul to see it as being really purposeful.

Erin: And I think, those things that are common, we assume are not holy or are not sacred or are not of God or not blessed by God. So it’s very easy for mothers to feel like they are the lowest rung in the church because they are not doing something new, innovative, exciting. But that’s not true.

I think of the hall of faith in Hebrews and those people who are listed and commended for their great faith. I love at the end of that long list it talks about how they persevered without seeing their fruits. They just had great faith.

Motherhood is like that. It’s definitely like that. There’s not a lot of fruit for a really long time, but just because motherhood is common doesn’t mean God isn’t using it.

Nancy: Don’t you think it’s like the enemy to want to dismantle and undermine the whole concept of motherhood, which is so involved in passing the baton of faith from one generation to the next. I can see how, if Satan were just masterminding how to take over a culture, how to stop the gospel from going forward, one big weapon in his arsenal would be to make people think that motherhood is insignificant.

Erin: Absolutely. I mean, Satan is crafty, but he’s not all that original. This is very similar to the original lie that he whispered to Eve: “Did God really say that you can’t do that? Did God really say that?” The undertone is, “Who you are is not enough. You need to be something else, girl. You need to be doing something else with your life. He’s holding back from you.”

It’s the same lie that mothers are chewing on left and right: Motherhood isn’t enough. I’m not enough if I’m just a mom.

I can’t tell you how many people that I’m around, when they are asked, “What do you?" Reply, "Oh, I’m just a mom." As if they’re apologizing for it. It’s huge, so absolutely, it’s under attack by the enemy. And we know that if Satan can undermine families, then he’s winning a lot of battles on a lot of fronts. And if he can undermine motherhood, he can undermine a lot of families.

Nancy: Even the way that Eve got her name is a really gracious and precious tribute to the value of motherhood.

Erin: That’s right.

Nancy: You think of Adam and Eve sinning, making the wrong choice to eat the forbidden fruit, and then God comes to the garden and gives them the consequences, to the man, to the woman, to the serpent, and clothed them. You go through this whole scene of grace back there with the fallen man and woman.

And then comes that point at the end of Genesis 3 where Adam actually names his wife. Just talk about the selection of the name in that context.

Erin: This was my favorite thing that I discovered in Scripture when I was researching this concept of motherhood. The curse had just been handed out, and Adam’s first words out of his mouth are to rename his wife Eve because she would be the mother of many; she would give life to many.

So at first it’s like, “What? She just blew it big time, and you’re going to rename her Life Giver?” But Adam knew that there would be some redemption. Yes, she sinned, but she was going to be the mother of all the living.

As I continued to study that, I said that sin is one song we should be singing about Eve, but her children were her opus because she went on to have children after that. We know the story of Cain and Abel. We know that it wasn’t perfect. But at the birth of those children, Eve every time says, “With the help of God, I have brought forth a man.” You can hear the wonder in her voice. “Yes, I sinned, but God is helping me to give birth to a child.”

And after the birth of Seth it says that “at that time, the people of earth came to call on the name of the Lord.” So yes, Eve sinned, but Eve also talked about the Lord with her children. There were no Vacation Bible Schools. There were no youth pastors, no outreach events. Adam and Eve were responsible to teach their children about God, and because of that, because they faithfully told their children about God and told the stories of God and shared the importance of following God, the people of earth began to call on the name of the Lord.

She made a mistake, but her name, Life Giver, is a reminder. She lost so much in the garden, but she didn’t lose her husband, and she didn’t lose her children, and she didn’t lose God. So there’s some redemption there in that role of being a life giver.

Nancy: And it’s grace restoring what Satan intended to strip away.

Erin: Absolutely.

Nancy: I think he intended to leave her without any of that.

Erin: Right.

Nancy: He would have wanted to trash her marriage, trash her whole life, and trash everybody else’s life from that point on.

Erin: Sure.

Nancy: But this where grace comes in, and part of that gracious redeeming provision right there in the garden is the fact that she is still called and enabled by God to be a bearer and nurturer of life.

Erin: And it didn’t come easy for Eve. Part of the curse for Eve was that child bearing would come with pain. And her toddlers probably acted a lot like my toddlers. And so child rearing probably came with its own share of frustrations. But every little face was a reminder that redemption was possible and that God had a plan for redemption. Everything didn’t stop there in the garden with that bite of the apple, her family would go on.

And we’re still talking about Eve today. For generations and generations and generations, her story is still being told. Why? Because she sinned? Yes. But also because she gave life.

Nancy: Not to speak of the fact that through that line of her third child Seth ultimately came Christ . . .

Erin: That’s right.

Nancy: . . . the Messiah, the one who would deal a fatal wound to the serpent and purchase our salvation.

So it was through her willingness to give life, to embrace that calling of motherhood, that ultimately, we’re sitting here today being followers and lovers of Christ. It is through that line that God made a provision for salvation in the Person of Christ.

Erin: And that’s how it is with motherhood. I think so many moms think the goal of motherhood is just to raise kids who are good, who behave well. If you have that close-up view of motherhood, I got news for you: They’re not always going to behave well, and that doesn’t mean you’re a failure as a mother. You’re not always going to behalf well, and that doesn’t mean you’re a failure as a mother. You’ve got to have a long-range vision.

What will happen if your kids call on the name of the Lord? And then what will happen if their kids call on the name of the Lord? And what will happen if their kids call on the name of the Lord? How many people will be impacted by all of those children that you’ve poured wisdom into, that you’ve been a life giver to, and they go on to be salt and light in this dark world?

You can’t just think of it as: “Can I get through the day without losing my cool?” You have to think of it as: “What is my long-term ministry potential?” That’s what Eve was able to do, and it is a really beautiful story of redemption and restoration and the beauty of giving life.

Nancy: And yet it’s not an over-romanticized story.

Erin: Sure.

Nancy: Because, as you pointed out, early on there in Genesis we see the pain of child bearing, child rearing, and know that motherhood does involve suffering.

Erin: Eve was the first woman to ever bury her child. So Eve knew the pain of motherhood that many of us will not know. To a greater degree, Eve knew the pain of motherhood, but the story doesn’t stop there.

Nancy: And I think it’s also a reminder that, even when motherhood is not that traumatic, that it’s still difficult, and that it doesn’t come naturally to fallen human creatures. It reminds me of the passage in Titus chapter 2 that says that part of the mentoring, discipling process of older women to younger women, is to teach the younger women to love their children. Now that implies to me that it doesn’t come naturally, that it’s something that has to be learned and can be learned.

Erin: I take so much comfort in that passage. In fact, I lead a mom’s group at my church, and we have been focusing on that passage now for months and months and months.

I was so relieved to learn, “Oh, this is supposed to be taught to me? I’m not just supposed to know how to love my children? I’m not just supposed to know how to love my husband?”

It also says to be happy at home. I’m not just supposed to leave the hospital and suddenly know how to be happy about everything that’s happening in my world. Those are things I should be taught.

And what should be my curriculum? The Word of God through older women who are willing to teach it to me.

This is a tremendous relief, that I’m not just supposed to automatically know how to be a great mom, how to feel wonderful about it, how to maintain my marriage during motherhood, but that those are things that can be taught to me through God’s Word.

Nancy: And what are some of the things that God has used in your early mothering experience (and your book really focuses especially on moms with little ones), what are some of the things God has used to encourage and give you grace in that journey and to help you embrace motherhood as a sacred calling?

Erin: Well, I got involved almost immediately with MOPS, which is an acronym for Mothers of Preschoolers. It’s a national ministry that really focuses on training and equipping moms. And I got really plugged in there, and those women have made a huge in my life. Also, I started a mom’s group at my own church, and those women have really been a huge influence in my life.

But also, having children made me realize my need to spend time with people who are not just like me. I love to spend time with my mom friends, pushing our strollers around, but we all have the same issues, and none of us are any further down the path. So I’ve been really intentional about spending time with moms whose kids are a little bit older, and then also inviting moms whose kids are a little bit younger, to come to my home.

One of my favorite things to do is to invite a family over to our house for pancakes on any given morning—“Come in your jammies”—and we just spend time. So it’s really deepened my relationships in a lot of ways.

Now, it’s taken effort on my part because those things don’t happen as naturally now as maybe they did a few generations ago when moms and grandmas and aunts and cousins were all in close proximity. I have to make the effort.

I literally got online and googled moms’ groups, found several of them, called them, and that takes a lot of work. It takes a lot of work to maintain friendships and to start new friendships and all of that. But it’s been my life raft in these mothering seasons to just spend time with other people who are also mothering and to glean whatever I can from them.

Nancy: So I’m thinking about a young mom who’s listening to this program, and she’s thinking, Okay, I’m not a speaker. I’m not a writer. I’m not as talented or bright or something as Erin—she must be superwoman. I’m here drowning. I’m struggling. I’m sleep deprived. I can hardly remember my name. The thought of getting up and getting out and doing one more thing in that intensive—labor intensive season of mothering—just seems overwhelming.

Erin: Sure, it does.

Nancy: Help her out. Encourage her.

Erin: She has to put one foot in front of the other, and she has to find a way to connect with—maybe it’s just one other mom—but, absolutely, it takes effort. When you’re in the little years, just getting out of the house is a lot of effort. It’s a lot of effort for my family, but it is worth it.

Mothering can be very, very isolating. There’s that season when the baby is first born, when people drop off casseroles, and then that all kind of goes away, and you’re on your own. Our culture tends to think, That baby business is so private that we should not call, we should give them their space, and we should not intrude. So the mom is going to have to do it.

So she needs to find one step that she can take. Maybe it’s calling one friend. Maybe it is joining a moms group at a local church, asking a friend if you can get together and walk once a week.

But I understand; it takes work. It takes a lot of heavy lifting and a lot of diaper bag packing and all of that, but you can’t do it well without having other moms to be connected to. 

Nancy: And there’s some ways of getting connected that don’t require even getting out of the house.

Erin: Certainly.

Nancy: And what a use for Facebook, for the phone, for email—do people still do email?

Erin: Yeah, I do. It’s snail mail we don’t do anymore.

Nancy: Right. And it’s fun for me to watch some of my friends who are young moms, how they’re encouraging one another on Facebook.

Erin: Sure.

Nancy: Just reminding each other that you’re not doing this alone. You do have a cheerleader.

Erin: That’s right. And I just encourage moms online to really communicate, “My children are a blessing.” It’s very easy on Twitter or your Facebook status, or whatever, to complain about, "Oh, I’m so tired." "Ugh, another soccer practice. Oh this, oh that." But whatever you’re communicating online, communicate, “My children are a blessing. My kids . . . look at this, isn’t this cute. Look at what we did in our family devotions today. We’re going outside. We’re collecting leaves.”

Communicate the delighting things about motherhood—and they’re there if you’re willing to look for them—and other moms will come to you like moths to a flame because they don’t want to talk about the drudgery anymore. They don’t want to complain about it anymore, but they don’t really know how to get off the hamster wheel. So maybe it starts with you.

Nancy: Let me say to older women, and I'm in that category, what a role we can have in encouraging these younger moms. Whether you have children of your own or not, I'm single, never been married, never had any biological children, but I have found it a great joy to step into the lives of some of these younger women and these young moms in that difficult, isolated season of life. I can send notes of encouragement, and I can bless them and remind them that what they are doing is really, really important.

You may have raised your children, you may be an empty-nester, you may be a grandmom, you may be an older, single woman. But look around for those young moms. You may not be able to minister to all of them, but find one or two, and say, "How can I encourage and bless?" Maybe you can in practical ways—give the mom a chance to get out and do some shopping, or to take a break, or to have a date with her husband or another friend. You can take her kids for a little bit.

Now, it takes a lot more energy to do that when you are in your fifties and sixties than it did when you were in your thirties. But this is where the body can work.

Erin: If you're not going to do it, no one else will. The likelihood is that she is in a situation like I was: Here mom doesn't live anywhere close. She doesn't have anyone like that, a grandma or sister who is geographically close. So she is doing it on her own.

There was a sweet woman in my church when I brought Elisah home that I didn't really know very well. But she called and said, I'd like to come over for an hour so you can take a bath. I was like, "Hallelujah!" It was such a tremendous gift to me.

This idea of generationally blurring those lines, you have some wisdom to speak to that mom. You can give her a great deal of sanity just by talking a walk with her, or holding that baby for a little while so she can go outside or go to the grocery store.

That's a great word, and I'm so glad you said that. It's not just about older moms connecting with younger moms. But that older woman who is listening who is past that season of life, do something for that mom because she needs it.

Leslie: Erin Davis and Nancy Leigh DeMoss have been talking about an important ministry. It’s called motherhood.

As a podcast listener, you’re hearing a longer version of today’s program than what aired on the radio. If you know someone who would be encouraged by the program, I hope you’ll send them a link.

Erin writes about the important calling of motherhood in the book, Beyond Bath Time.

Nancy: And, Leslie, I do hope that every mom of young children who’s listening to this program will read this book. If you don’t have younger kids, I hope you’ll get a copy and pass it along to a mom you know.

I know that moms with a lot of little ones don’t have time to do a lot of reading. One of the things I appreciate about this book is it’s not long. It’s easy reading. It’s engaging. And I just think it’s going to be a huge blessing to these moms with young children.

We’d like to send you Beyond Bath Time when you make a donation of any amount to Revive Our Hearts.

When you call with your gift of any size, ask for the book, Beyond Bath Time by Erin Davis. It may be something you could use yourself. If not, surely it’s something you could share with a young mom in your sphere of influence—maybe a daughter or granddaughter or a friend at your church—someone who’s got little ones that you can share this gift with. And we’ll be glad to send it to you when you send a donation of any size to the ministry of Revive Our Hearts.

The number to call is 1–800–569–5959, or if you want to donate online, visit us at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Leslie: Thanks, Nancy.  We’ll be making that offer through this Friday, July 11, and we’re happy to send one book per household.

When you’re a mom of young kids, it’s easy to be tempted by discouragement. Erin Davis understands and will show you how to be encouraged when you feel like giving up. Please join her and Nancy again tomorrow for Revive Our Hearts.

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

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.