Revive Our Hearts Podcast

The Blanket of Unconditional Love

Leslie Basham: Denise Glenn describes her early longing for a child.

Denise Glenn: I said, “You know what? I go to church every Sunday. We put a little bit of money in that plate, and God owes me a baby.” I was hurting in my marriage, and I just thought, “Why can’t I just pray and this would happen?”

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Monday, July 19.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: When we asked our listeners what kinds of topics would be meaningful or helpful to them in their spiritual growth and pilgrimage, one of the things we hear most often is, “Help for us as mothers.”

Everywhere I go I meet mothers who are really wanting to have children, who have a heart for the Lord, and children to follow after Christ, but they’re crying out and saying, “It’s a struggle. It’s a challenge. We’re swimming upstream to raise godly children in this culture in this generation.” I suppose that’s been true in every culture and every generation, but it's certainly very true today.

Our guest today is no more an expert than anyone, but she is a woman who has committed herself to the authority of God’s Word and has lived out its principles and has seen God give her children a heart for the Lord. Now, as a mother of three and grandmother of eight, she is sharing that message with women all around the world through her ministry that is called MotherWise.

Denise Glenn, the founder of MotherWise, serves along with her geophysicist husband who is partnering with her in this ministry. Denise, thank you so much for joining us to talk about how mothers can be wise in the ways of God.

Denise: Thank you, Nancy. I’m so glad to be here. I love to talk about mothering. I love to talk to moms.

Nancy: It has to be an incredible joy to you today to see your children, your three daughters, now grown, married, and with children of their own, walking with the Lord. Does it get any better than that?

Denise: It doesn’t. I am so blessed. My girls continue to teach me. I’m watching them walk with Jesus. They bless me, and they’re teaching me as their journey with the Lord is going on. We’re learning together as a family. It’s a beautiful thing.

Nancy: I loved that you told me last night that one of your daughters called you as you were heading in for this interview to pray with you.

Denise: She did. She was praying for me for this interview, and just praying over the message. “Mom, you’re about your Father’s business.” So she’s . . .

Nancy: She’s become your encourager.

Denise: She is. All three of the girls are. It’s a blessing.

Nancy: In case you’re not familiar with the ministry MotherWise, you'll want to go to our website, ReviveOurHearts.com, and we’ll provide a link to MotherWise so you can see the many resources and tools they have available.

I’m holding in my hand one of their key resources called Wisdom for Mothers. It’s an eight-week study that Denise has written to help you find biblical answers to your most important family questions.

I was just telling Denise, this book really should be called Wisdom for Women because it’s not just for mothers. It deals with your relationship with the Lord, your relationship with your mate, your relationship with your children.

There are DVDs that go along with this series, and this is a great study for you to do with a group of women in your church. You can get some mentoring moms, some older women, who can use this series with younger women to just help them in every season of life.

In this series, we want to focus on this issue of motherhood. Denise, I read a little bit about your story. Being a mom was something that you always wanted to do.

Denise: Oh my goodness. From the beginning, from the time I was the tiniest little girl, I played with baby dolls, and I role-played the role of mommy. I played with baby dolls until I was a teenager. My mother finally said, “Okay, no more baby dolls,” when I was about 14. I wanted to be a mom. It was just my heart’s desire.

So when we got married, and David and I had been married several years, our marriage was struggling. So I thought the answer to marriage problems would be to have a baby. Now that is the silliest thing. Women listening to me are thinking, “Oh, dear. If you think your children are going to solve your marriage problems, it’s not true.”

But in my little Cinderella world, I was thinking . . . I’ve seen those pictures of those mothers in long, white gowns holding those babies in a long, white gown—of course, there’s no spit-up in those pictures. This is what I wanted, that loving relationship between mother and child.

I actually handed my heart, my love bucket first to marriage thinking, “Well, that’s not going to do it.” Then I handed it to mothering, and I really thought if I could just have a baby, all my problems would be solved. But in our case, we were discovered to be an infertile couple.

I know there are a lot of listeners who are listening to us today, maybe driving in their car, and this strikes a chord in their heart. So many couples today find themselves facing infertility. Well, that’s where David and I were. Here I was with this passion and desire to be a mother, and we couldn’t have a baby.

Month after month after month came off the calendar. We did everything. We were seeking some medical attention, but, oh my goodness. No baby, and it drove me crazy, and I was driving my husband crazy. Every wave of nausea, “Do you think I’m pregnant?”

Finally David said, “Denise, you’ve got to go talk to some woman about this. Don’t talk to me about it anymore. We can’t make this happen.”

I went and talked to an older woman in my church, and this godly lady sat me down, and I basically told her why God owed me a baby. I said, “You know what? I go to church every Sunday. We put a little bit of money in that plate, and God owes me a baby.” I was hurting in my marriage, and I just thought, “Why can’t I just pray and this would happen? I don’t understand. How can two teenagers in the backseat of a car do this, and here I am married, and we can’t have a baby?”

This godly woman listened to my sad story, and she didn’t criticize me. She just said, “Denise, I have one assignment for you. Tell God, ‘It’s okay if you never have a child. What you want is Him.’”

I thought, “Well, okay. I was a minister’s daughter. I can pray a little prayer." So I pranced out to the parking lot, thinking, “I’m just going to say this little prayer.” Then it hit me, “If I tell God it’s okay if I never have a child, He is going to take me up on it because God answers prayer, and that is not okay with me.”

So for three days I absolutely refused to pray this prayer of surrender because I knew I was laying my babies, my future children, at the foot of the cross, and I was not ready to let go.

I don’t know if your listeners have ever told God or refused to do what God wants them to do, but it is miserable. I was feeling like a two-ton elephant was sitting on me. Finally, I submitted to what I knew the Lord wanted me to do. I said, “Lord, it is okay if I never have a child. What I want is You, and I don’t even know what that means. Lord, here is my heart’s desire. I am offering it to you.”

I knew that was the surrender I needed to make. I got up off my knees, feeling this burdened had lifted, went in to David, and I said, “Sweetheart, I’m sorry you’re never going to have kids. I just gave them to God.” He’s like, “It’s okay. We’ll travel.”

In answer to that prayer, God brought a wonderful surgeon into our lives very soon after that prayer. Now, it doesn’t always happen this way for everybody. It’s not always God’s answer, but for me, hanging on to having those children to meet the needs of my heart, to be my significance and my security, had to be released at the foot of the cross.

Nancy: Yes.

Denise: In answer to that prayer, then God opened my womb through a wonderful surgeon who did surgery, and 16 months later I was holding our precious, first, little firstborn. Oh my goodness. Heaven came down and glory filled my soul. “This is it. Eureka! I have found it. I’m a mom!”

And I felt that way until we went home from the hospital. This baby, bless her little heart, was a sick, allergic baby. And there are moms who are listening to us right now who thought motherhood was going to be their little Chatty Cathy doll that you put over your shoulder, and then you put them in their bed, and you go do your nails. This baby required everything I could give from all day long to all night long. Neither of us slept for a year, and motherhood—I began to get it that motherhood meant sacrifice.

So that first year I was learning that motherhood was a lifestyle of sacrifice, of laying down my life and pouring out my life into this little person. Well, God blessed us with two more babies, and we now had three babies in four years, and we were blessed beyond any blessing. I was thrilled with our three little children. They were the delight of my life, but I was drowning in motherhood.

At that point, when we had a four-year old having asthma attacks and a two-year old we were trying to potty train and a brand new baby with colic, I was drowning in just the physical part of mothering, the emotional and the physical drain of mothering. Thinking, because I have a degree in early childhood education and special certification in very young children that I would be totally equipped, and all that went out the door. I knew some basic things about teaching children academically, but being a mom, and the sacrifice of motherhood overwhelmed me.

At that point I had to cry out to God again and say, “Lord, I can’t do this. I am in over my head. You have to take control.” Through some godly women who began mentoring me, God began to put the pieces together so that I could enjoy motherhood.

You see, I had prayed for this. I had longed for it, and God blessed me. He answered my prayer, but then I didn’t know how to enjoy the blessing of motherhood. So these godly women began taking me by the hand and walking me through the Word of God.

They began to teach me and train me, and I began to realize that my children needed three gifts from me. The three gifts mothers can give their children that will last for a lifetime are:

  • the blanket of unconditional love
  • the rope of boundaries
  • the bread of life

Nancy: Gifts that your mother gave you, that you have now passed on to your three daughters, and praise God they are now passing on to those eight precious grandchildren so far.

First gift, what is it, and how do you give it?

Denise: The gift of unconditional love, the blanket of unconditional love. Women are visual people, so it helps you to visualize wrapping your child in a blanket of unconditional love. Now, this child may be a thirteen-year-old boy or a two-month-old baby. It really doesn’t matter how old your children are. Your children need unconditional love—love that doesn’t have strings attached.

For a mom, this is a big huge gift—not based on their performance; not based on their appearance; not based on their behavior, and that’s a tricky one.

Nancy: Yes.

Denise: How do you love your children not based on their behavior? For me, as I began looking into God’s Word, Jesus loved my children in me and through me. Some things about loving my children are natural, easy. Oh my goodness. They’re my darlings. They’re my delights. It’s easy to love our children, but as my children began to grow, and they were performing at school or performing in sports or even performing in church or acting, doing the right things, as a mom, learning that I cannot have strings attached to my love, that my children don’t have to be my puppet to make me look good.

What God began to address in me is where I was trying to manipulate and control my children even through my acceptance and love so that I could guide them to be the nice little Christian people I wanted them to be. It’s tricky and it’s subtle, but God had to address in me where I still had strings attached to my love.

He said, “Denise, your love for your children has to be unconditional.” That agape love is God’s love. It’s not Denise love. Denise love cannot measure up. My love will always be conditional because I’m a human being, but as I allow Jesus to fill me with His love and pour it out on my children, then I can have a right relationship with my kids and wrap them in unconditional love.

Nancy: So can you give us an illustration of a time when, with one of your daughters, you found yourself loving them conditionally and had to wrap them instead in a blanket of unconditional love?

Denise: When our oldest was in high school, she was doing some things and making some choices that I didn’t agree with. Now, as it all came out, she was actually right, and I was wrong, but when she was doing some things and making some choices, and I was thinking, “I’m just not too sure about this. I would like for your life to go this way and not that way.” God had to address in me that I would extend my love and my acceptance of her as a person, not based on my dreams and my hopes.

What God had to show me is that whether my child is making the right decision or the wrong decision (okay, yes, mothers do—the second gift is the rope of boundaries, we’ll talk about that in a minute), but I have to lay the foundation in my child’s life, “Your mama loves you no matter what—no matter what you do, no matter how you look, no matter how you behave.” Even if my children embarrass me at church in front of my friends, my love is not based on conditional response to them responding and making me look good as a mother.

It’s a tricky and subtle and crafty thing of the enemy to twist that so that a mom can actually be tempted to make her love a manipulative thing to control her children. We can say, “Oh, we’re just trying to make them godly.” The Lord has really addressed that in me. My love has to be unconditional.

Now, yes, we set boundaries. Yes, we train up our children in a godly way, but the love part, the foundation of their lives has to be set in unconditional love that has no strings attached.

Nancy: So how do you communicate that kind of unconditional love when your children are making, not just questionable decisions, but wrong decisions, when you see them acting out, misbehaving, making foolish choices? How do you communicate that unconditional love?

Denise: When my children were young, when they were very small, and maybe they were disobedient about something, I would take their little face in my hands and get down on their level on my knees, and I would say, “Your mama loves you. I love you. You are amazing. You are going to be this fabulous person. That’s why I can’t let you act like that. You are not going to do . . .” and I would tell them exactly what they were not going to do. But I started with, “I love you. You are amazing, and I believe in you so much and think you’re so amazing, that’s why I can’t let you act like that because, my goodness, you’re fabulous. You’re going to grow up to be an amazing person. That’s why we don’t do that.”

Just verbalizing that to them, as they were growing up, and then later expressing to them as they were making choices and decisions as teenagers and as young adults, when they were in their early 20s, still saying, “I love you, and I am here. I will always be here for you.”

Part of it is a condition of your heart as a mother. Not closing your heart to your child. There are all sorts of ways to shut down your heart, so just leaving your heart open to your children and keeping that fellowship and that relationship open.

But it really came through studying the Word of God, Nancy. It came through looking at 1 Corinthians 13 and diving deeply into it, immersing myself into that chapter and going back and back and back to “Love believes all things; love bears all things; love hopes all things; love endures all things; love never fails” (see verses 7-8). 

So trying to take us out of the glass bowl and just investing love into my children and saying, “Your mama is always going to be on your team. I’m not going to be on your back. I’m going to be on your team.”

Nancy: Denise, I’m hearing from lots of moms who have been hurt deeply by their children, their children’s choices. Their children have turned on them, have rejected them as parents, have rejected their teaching. How do you keep your heart open to your child when you’ve been hurt?

Denise: You can only do that by immersing yourself in the love of Christ. It is so easy to take our self-esteem from our children’s opinion of us, to assign them the job of making us feel good about ourselves. It is way too heavy for our children to carry us as mothers emotionally. It’s not their job.

So when we take that cup, that love bucket that we have inside, instead of handing it to my children, when I hand it to the Lord Jesus and say, “Lord Jesus, I am going to get my needs met in You.” A mother is only as happy as her unhappiest child. When our children are hurting or in rebellion; when our children are walling us out, it just wounds us in such a deep, deep intimate way. Take those wounds to Jesus. Take those wounds to Jesus. Don’t continue to go to your child to get your needs met. Take your heart to Jesus and ask Him to love through you to your children.

There are simple ways. Even when my children were teenagers, when they didn’t want me smacking and loving and kissing and hugging them, especially in public, and all that, there were ways to communicate my love to them, even when they were in the funky teenage years.

My girls played sports. They were playing basketball and volleyball. Just giving their legs a rub or rubbing on their back, pounding on them—“Let me give you a massage.” They were very welcome to take that. Fixing good food, good healthy food; taking it to them to practice; showing up at the game; being there on the front row with the video camera. All those ways expressed love to our children.

Listen to them. If you have a little, bitty four-year-old girl who’s talking her head off and asking forty-million questions . . .

Nancy: . . . .in one hour.

Denise: Oh, in five minutes. Just getting down on her level and actually paying attention and listening. Time, touch, and talk are the ways that we communicate love to our children. Not just quality time, but quantity also makes a huge difference.

Your teenagers, of course, they don’t want to talk until after midnight, after your bedtime has come and gone.

Nancy: You’re exhausted.

Denise: Yes. But you sit down, and you listen.

Touch—our children, especially little, bitty children, need our hugs and our touch. Some women are so like, “I’m just not physical. I just don’t feel like that.” Just embracing our children and letting them have mom’s touch, mother’s loving touch.

And then talk—talk is not just using our own mouth, but using the two ears that we have to listen.

Keep those lines of communication open through time, touch, and talk. It works for all ages. So far, my children have children of their own, and we’re still using these ways to express love to our own kids.

Nancy: I think it’s important to remember, as you’ve said, that a mother doesn’t have that kind of supernatural love in her own heart unless God puts it there. So what you’re giving your children is God’s love. You’re being a channel of God’s love to them, God who said of His Son Jesus, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” God who loves even His wayward children, stays engaged, pursues their hearts.

It’s God’s love filling your heart, and then His love shining through you, flowing through you to love children, even when they are unlovable or seemingly impossible to love. You can’t love them, but Christ can love them through you.

We want to hear about the two other gifts you can give your children, so be sure and join us on the next edition of Revive Our Hearts to hear what those two gifts are.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss and Denise Glenn have shared one gift every mom needs to give her children.

It’s so easy for us as moms to get embroiled in day-to-day life and miss chances to invest in our children. Today’s conversation is a great reminder to stop and give them what they need today. I hope you’ll follow up, be encouraged, and grow as a mom.

When you donate any amount to Revive Our Hearts, we’ll send you a book called . . . well, I’ll let Nancy tell you. About 20 minutes ago, she told us about this book.

Nancy: Wisdom for Mothers. It’s an eight-week study that Denise has written to help you find biblical answers to your most important family questions. I was just telling Denise, really this book maybe should be called Wisdom for Women because it’s not just for mothers. It deals with your relationship with the Lord, your relationship with your mate, your relationship with your children, and this is a great study for you to do with a group of women in your church.

Leslie: When you donate any amount to Revive Our Hearts, your copy of Wisdom for Mothers will arrive at your door. You can call 1-800-569-5959, or you can donate online at ReviveOurHearts.com. You’ll have the joy of diving into this topic in a fresh way, and you’ll have the joy of knowing that you’ve helped us continue broadcasting in your area.

When you discipline your children, it really does mean you’re loving them. Denise Glenn will explain more tomorrow. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

 

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