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Missional Mothering, with Jani OrtlundHow a Mom Fights for Joy

How a Mom Fights for Joy
Photo of Nancy Leigh DeMoss
Nancy Leigh DeMoss

Leslie Basham: How does a busy mom of young kids show her husband he's still "Number 1?" Here's one thing Jani Ortlund gave her husband . . .

Jani Ortlund: A six-second kiss to say, "Good-bye. Take me with you throughout your day. I can't wait for you to come home tonight. I'll be waiting."

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Monday, May 4, 2015.

One of the best ways to grow as a mom is to learn from experienced moms who have gone before us. Today we'll do that as Nancy speaks to Jani Ortlund.

They're in the Revive Our Hearts studio along with some other moms who wanted to hear Jani and Nancy in person. Let's listen.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: One of the fun parts of my job at Revive Our Hearts is that I get to introduce our listeners to some of my friends who have been such a blessing and encouragement and challenge in my own life, and then you get to know them and be blessed by them as well.

Jani Ortlund is one of those very special friends. We've come to know each other better in recent years. She's been a friend to our ministry; she's written on the True Woman blog; she has spoken at True Woman conferences. Jani is a pastor's wife. Her husband, Ray Ortlund, Jr., pastors the Immanuel Church in Nashville, Tennessee.

Actually, Jani, your father-in-law was my pastor when I was in college. Many of you have heard on Revive Our Hearts Ray and Anne Ortlund. They are Jani's in-laws, who are now with the Lord. It's so sweet to see Ray, Jr. and Jani having accepted that baton of faith, now passing it on to the next generation.

Jani, we're so thankful to have you here today joining us on Revive Our Hearts.

Jani: Oh, thank you, Nancy. Ray and I love Revive Our Hearts and True Woman and pray for you. I'm just so honored to be here.

Nancy: Well, you have been a great friend and a huge blessing in my life. Tell us a little bit about your family. You have four grown children.

Jani: Ray and I have been married forty-three years now and have four children. Our oldest boy, Eric, is a professor of Old Testament at Briarcrest Seminary in Saskatchewan, Canada. He and Erin have two little ones, Kate and Will.

Next we have a daughter, Christa, who's a mom of three little ones. She's a model, which is a hard profession for a Christian, but she follows Christ closely, and we're so grateful. Christa is married to John, who works in Wheaton, Illinois (not at the college, but in business).

Our third child is Dane (our second son). He and his wife, Stacey, also live in Wheaton, so we have two children in the same town. They have four little ones, and Dane is Vice President of the Bible Division of Crossway.

Then, our "baby," Gavin, is an associate pastor in southern California. He and his wife, Esther, have two little ones. We have eleven grandchildren. How we thank the Lord for our family!

Nancy: And one of the reasons we were able to get you here in southwestern Michigan at Revive Our Hearts today is because you're on your way to see two of those families, with seven of the grandchildren.

Jani: Yes. I'm so grateful any time the Lord allows us to minister near one of our far-away children and grandchildren. I say, "Oh, yes, Lord, I'll do that! I get to visit the kids afterwards!" So thank you for this opportunity, Nancy.

Nancy: Well, knowing you were coming, we took the opportunity to talk with some of your children.

Jani: Oh, my.

Nancy: You didn't know we were doing this, but our producer called them and just asked them some questions about what it was like to be Jani Ortlund's son or daughter.

Jani: The truth shall come out. Oh, my!

Nancy: So I want us to play a clip of several of the children talking about their memories of Jani as a mom. Listen to this.

Christa: She and I both love horses, and so we would we go out to a barn nearby and muck out the stalls to pay for our lesson that night. We'd get up early the next morning and go do the same thing. I just remember those as some of the happiest days of my childhood; that she would step aside from all the things she had going on at home to do something that I enjoyed. That was special to me.

Son 1: For four years, when I was a kid, we were living in Scotland, where my dad was studying. My mom had us sitting around the table, and she was reading to us and with us. It was winter, and it was snowing quite heavily. I remember sitting there as a little kid and being quite happy and content. I loved to read.

I was learning to do a kind of deep reading. I was learning to "hear the music" in the words. There's a kind of listening with your soul that goes on with a really good book, and even at that early age my mom was helping me to do that.

Son 2: Every morning when I would walk down the stairs, I always knew she was going to be there, sitting on the couch with her blanket and hot beverage, reading her Bible.

Son 1: It was very clear that the Bible was the most important book to my mom. It was a matter of feeding on it as you go through the day.

Son 2: Right from the get-go I had a picture of, this is what an adult does, a healthy adult walking with God. They start their day with God, and they start their day with the Scripture.

Christa: I think just building that rhythm of going to church every Sunday. I would see her having her quiet time in the morning, and we would have family devotions every night as we were able. She had to be intentional, because as a mom of four kids, it would have been so easy for her to have gotten caught up in all of the to-do lists, especially as dad was so busy with ministry.

Son 2: I remember her getting home from work, and just the scramble of every day when you have four kids. You're at work all day and rushing home to get something in the oven, and that kind of thing, and yet in the midst of that busyness, she was so cheerful.

Nancy: And so, Jani, these ones who were very little, born in rapid succession when you were a young mom, now they're adults. They're following Christ; they're talking about the joyful sacrifices that you made—the intentionality. What does that do to your heart when you hear that?

Jani: Oh, my heart is overflowing! Get the Kleenex, Nancy. I just can hardly keep the tears in. When you're in it as a young mom, you don't realize it. All you know is that you're exhausted. But to be able to look back, it reminds me of that verse in Galatians 6, "Don't be weary in doing good, because in due time you will reap a harvest" (see v. 9).

We need to encourage young moms that there is a harvest to be reaped after you sow those seeds. I'm so grateful my kids remember me reading the Word because, Nancy, I believe with all my heart that it's much more important to be a good Christian than it is to be a good mother. Who you are as a Christian is more important than who you are as a mom.

Nancy: What do you mean by that and why?

Jani: The Bible teaches that out of your heart flows your life, the wellsprings of your life . . . out of the abundance of your heart. Jesus says that out of the abundance of your heart the mouth speaks. So, what is in here will eventually come out. If you're putting in here [your heart] worry, fatigue, resentment, fears, that's what's going to come out,

But if every morning you're meeting with the grace-giver, you'll have more grace to pass on to your kids. I'm not saying that it's easy; I know it's hard. You're exhausted, and that youngest baby always hears you. It doesn't matter what time you get up.

If you set your alarm for 4:00 to be up before the baby wakes for its 5:00 feeding, the baby wakes up at 4:00. If you set our alarm at 5:00, the baby wakes. I understand that, but I want to encourage our listeners (especially those young moms) to make that time. Fight for it, claw for it, scratch for it, do whatever you need, because it's only as Jesus flows through you to your children that they will find Him irresistibly beautiful and be drawn to Him.

Nancy: We have some young moms here in the room. They have little ones now. Can you transport yourself back to that time? How did you know the importance of getting into the Word, and then how did you make it such a part of your life in that season?

Jani: I knew the importance through all my failures. I remember one time a very caustic remark came out of my mouth and Ray heard it, and it was about someone we love. He looked at me, and I stopped and thought about what had just come out, and I said, "Where did that come from?!"

We both said at the same time, we knew where it came from, it came from my heart. So, through my failures, through my impatience, through my lost temper, through my lack of clarity with the children and lack of love and joy and peace and all those things I dreamed my home would be, through my failures I came to see I cannot do this.

There's only one Person I can do this through and that's Jesus Christ. I need Him so much. So it was through my failures. And then through older moms saying, "It's hard, but it's worth it. It will cost you something to be in the Word: It will cost you sleep, it will cost you time, it will cost you energy, but it will cost you so much more not to be in the Word."

So it looked different at different times in my life. Sometimes during nap time, sometimes early in the morning. I'm not very good late in the evening. We're friends, Nancy, and you know that. You get some of your best work done at night, and I get some of my best work done early in the morning.

So I would try to get up early in the morning, as well. Accountability also helps. I would encourage young moms, if they're having trouble getting more than just a verse here and there . . . You know, they grab it on the fly. Some young moms will say, "I have this verse, and I keep just going over it in my head." That's good, but that's not enough.

I found that it helped to be in accountability with another young mom. And what we did every Tuesday morning (I still remember), dear Charlene and I would exchange our little kids, and we'd made a promise. When she had my three children, with her two, I would have two hours.

I could not do any errands; I could not stop by the drugstore to pick up a prescription or stop to get milk. I would go the nearest Dunkin' Donuts and get a cup of tea and be with Him for those two hours. Then every other Tuesday, I would do that for her. So I had an extended quiet time twice a month. It doesn't sound like much, but those two hours were wonderful.

So I encourage accountability and help with others. Make time for it. The Holy Spirit will help you. It is not the voice of Jesus who says, "Oh, you're too busy; you're too tired; I'll excuse you for this season." We think, when the kids are little, "It's just a season. When they're sleeping through the night, it will be easier to be with Him. Or when they're in preschool or kindergarten it will be easier. Oh, I know, when they go to college, it will be a lot easier."

But it doesn't get easier. There are time constraints every single day of our lives here on earth. I think two of the things that young moms can really struggle with are fear and then resentment. Those fears of, "Oh my goodness, I thought (before I had this baby) I had it all planned out, what I was going to do."

"I had read all the right books, and I knew what I was going to do, and I was going forward." And then about two hours after delivery she realizes, "I'm hurting. This baby, how do I feed it?" And all the questions start cascading over and into and through her.

We need so much to remember that those fears that we feel are not necessarily from the Lord. The Lord tells us, "Fear not. Come to Me. I have a plan; I have a way. I've called you to this. 'Faithful is He who has called you, who will also do it.'" I would encourage us as mothers to not let fears rule in our hearts. They will drain us; they will sap us. We'll be exhausted from those. We'll spend more time with our fears than we will in positive energy with our children.

And then resentment that will sometimes set in: "Well, Lord, I know I asked for children, but I didn't think they'd be like this. I didn't know it would be this hard, and I didn't know we would be this broke, and I didn't know it would feel this lonely. I didn't know that I'd be the only one who doesn't succeed in raising their children. I didn't know. And I'm kind of . . . mad. You know, this isn't what it's supposed to be like."

And that resentment is not from the Lord Jesus Christ; that resentment is not from the Holy Spirit. Jesus doesn't give us resentment. That's from the enemy of our soul. We hand those resentments over and say, "Lord, behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done unto me according to Your Word. I'm your servant. You've given me this cranky baby, this baby that was sick."

Our three oldest, when we lived in Scotland, the older ones were continually sick with pneumonia, bronchitis, tonsillitis, all of that. "You've given these to me, Lord. I'm not going to resent this. I'm going to take this as from You, for my good and for their good and for the good of Your Kingdom."

Nancy: Your children talked about you making joyful sacrifices. I think of you as a woman of joy. Is that a word that would have characterized you in your home when your children were little? Did you have to fight for joy or did it just come naturally?

Jani: I had to fight for every ounce of joy, because mothering is planning for the future, and you don't always get it right now, today. I'm so glad to have heard the kids talk about our home being a place filled with joy. I do have joy in Jesus, I really do, and hopefully we did back then.

But it's not a natural reaction. I mean, mothering is slave labor. You don't get paid for it; it's hard work. It reminds me of that cartoon of the little boy sitting on his daddy's lap, and they're looking at the wedding album. And the two-year-old boy is looking up at his daddy saying, "Oh, so that's the day mama came to work for us."

And I think that's how we feel as moms, Nancy. We feel like slaves!

Nancy: Not a lot of thanks. You can't really see the outcome for a long time.

Jani: But we serve One who came to serve, and as we become more like Jesus in our mothering, then the joy can come. "Who for the joy set before Him . . ." The joy set before us is faithfully following Christ and leaving the outcome to Him, that in "due time, we will reap."

Nancy: I think a lot of the frustrations I see in young moms, in young families, is this crazy busyness and life so full of so many things. And today there are a lot of options, a lot of distractions. Maybe there weren't as many when your children were little, but I've heard you talk about making the home a priority, the family a priority. How do you view that, and how do you encourage young moms?

Jani: I call it "missional mothering" because there are so many pulls on a young mother, especially if she is part of a community, which she ought to be. There are responsibilities at church, in her neighborhood. If her children are in school, there might be responsibilities at school, and then she has all these responsibilities at home, with her husband, with her children.

But I think it's really important that moms give their children their full attention in those early years. Think of Titus 2:4 and 5 where Paul is saying, "Have the older women teach the younger women to love their husbands and children."

Why would Paul have to tell us older women to do that? Because as we get older, we forget how hard it is to love your husband and love your children in those early years. We have to be encouraged: "It's your role. You're the only mother they have." So be missional in your mothering. Be willing to say "no" to outside things for this top priority of mothering your children.

Children need you for that season. They're your chief ministry. You need to be flexible, pliable, absorbent with them. You need to be there giving them grace in the middle of it, and that takes time, it takes energy, it takes creativity, it takes prayer. It takes a lot of hard work.

So, I would really encourage moms . . . I talk a lot, Nancy, about guilt in mothering, but I want to relieve young moms of one guilt, and that is: Do not feel guilty about investing yourself 100% in your children when they're little. They need you.

Nancy: Now, where does your relationship with your husband come into all this, and why is that important? How did your relationship with Ray help to create an environment in your home that was conducive to your children coming to know and love the Lord?

Jani: Well, I am married to a man who loves the Lord, passionately, with all his heart and soul and mind. He's serving Christ in full-time ministry (he has for all our marriage). So I'm in a little different place than some of our listeners today. But I believe that no matter who you are married to, your relationship with your husband comes before the children.

If you put your child as number one in the home, before your husband, that's too great a responsibility for that child to live up to. Daddy must be first, and the reason is this: Marriage isn't just for us. Marriage is a symbol to the world and to your children of Christ in love with the Church and the Church in joyful, humble submission to His authority, Christ as our Figurehead.

So your children in seeing how you relate to your husband get a beautiful up-close picture of Christ loving the Church and how the Church loves Christ. So I believe it's very important for children to be, in a sense, number two in the house. Now, there are times when a child's needs are louder and more exhausting than a husband's needs. A husband gets that.

But I'll tell you about one time when our kids were little. Ray was working very hard. He was working on his second master's degree and pastoring full-time and then teaching Greek two nights a week, from six until ten o'clock. We were both very busy. I was babysitting in our home to help earn some money even though I had three little ones of my own.

Ray would come home and I would think, Oh, he just doesn't really get what our day has looked like. And he would interject himself into a discipline issue or helping with the children in some way, and maybe do something that I didn't feel was quite right. I would say, "Oh, honey, Christa didn't get her full nap today . . . Eric has an earache . . ."

And I remember Ray one time saying, "Darling, I sometimes feel as if you're protecting the children from me." And he was right. Shame on me. God is the One who made him their father. God is the One who quickened my heart to say "yes" to Ray. I didn't need to protect to protect the children from Ray. I needed to help that relationship.

I need to build bridges there. He'd been gone all day. So I really strongly believe that a wife's role is more important than her role as a mother. If a child grows up seeing her mom totally, passionately, helplessly in love with their daddy, it gives them a security and a picture of what kind of home to build in the future.

Nancy: I know this is about parenting, but since you're talking about marriage here, I've got to ask you to tell about the six-second kiss.

Jani: Oh, Nancy. You would ask me to talk about that when I'm so far away from the man I six-second kiss with! Well, because we live, as almost every one of your listeners does, a very busy life, with Ray often having six-thirty breakfasts in the morning and meetings late at night (sometimes he won't get home until 10:00).

That often happened when the children were little. We found ourselves saying good-bye to each other from a different room in the house. I'd be changing the baby, and I'd hear Ray saying, "Good-bye, darling, I'll be home for dinner at five, and then I have to leave for the meeting at quarter to six."

And I'd say, "Okay, have a good day. Good-bye darling!" And we'd say good-bye from a distance. And there came a point where I saw how wrong that was, and I wanted to be my husband's last picture and last feeling as he left the house. So I decided, and I set this up with Ray, that we would no longer shout good-bye to each other, but that I would bid him good-bye at the back door when he left.

And he might have a surprise waiting there for him, if he'd wait for me to get downstairs before he left. I made it my goal to give him a six-second kiss, not a quick peck on the cheek good-bye, but one of those kisses that says, "We're married, and you're coming home to me, baby." A six-second kiss to say, "Good-bye, take me with you throughout your day. I can't wait for you to come home tonight. I'll be waiting!"

I think it's really important for a husband to feel that his wife has time for him in the midst of her exhausting job of being a mom to young children.

Nancy: Well, we're talking with Jani Ortlund about being a mom, and an important part about being a mom is being the wife that God made you to be. As we started here, it starts with having a right relationship with the Lord, and it all flows out of that, doesn't it?

We're going to continue this conversation tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts. Be sure and join us.

Leslie: That's Nancy Leigh DeMoss talking with Jani Ortlund about missional mothering. It's easy to take our cues as moms from the world around us. It takes intentional purpose to follow the Lord's plan for motherhood.

There's a mom who has recently been captured by her calling as a mom. Her name is Sydel. She has discovered God's calling for her as a mom through the ministry of Aviva Nuestros Corazones, the Spanish version of Revive Our Hearts. Just recently, at the ANC conference in the Dominican Republic, Sydel shared her story with our team.

Sydel: I'm a physician, and I was trained to be a working woman outside the home. I dreamed about being a physician since I was five years old, and God was asking me to give up that idol. I didn't know it was an idol; it was a calling. But behind that was an idol of my own pride and selfishness.

The change in my heart came when I was called to come to the home and be a mother and a wife. I knew how to be "Mrs. Doctor." I didn't know how to be wife and mother—staying at home and not having to get dressed and put on the heels and go to the office and have my secretary. I didn't know how to do that, to bear with the tears and the little soul that needed me.

I had no examples of women living out what God had called me to do. I had no role models and no resources. So that's where Revive Our Hearts came. It gave me the grace and the tools to live biblical truth on a day-to-day basis.

Leslie: The Lord's work in Sydel's life could have an effect for generations to come. Nancy, that's one reason we're so excited about what God's doing in accelerating a True Woman Movement in places around the globe.

Nancy: Yes, Leslie, it is such a joy to see evidence that the Lord is stirring hearts in a worldwide True Woman Movement. Now, that sounds like a large global thing, and it is, but that grand movement gets worked out in smaller stories like the one we just heard-one woman making eternal investments in her own family. That's how a True Woman Movement gets worked out, day by day, all around the world.

And you have a big opportunity to help accelerate that movement. Revive Our Hearts is able to speak biblical truth to women in English and in Spanish, over the radio and the Internet, because of the donations of listeners, friends like you. In the summer months we typically see a drop in donations, so we're asking the Lord to help us prepare for the coming summer months.

At the same time, we want the ministry to be poised to move into new areas around the world where we see Him at work. And we want to provide even more digital content, and to better serve women who want to read and to listen to this content on their mobile devices. So, we need to see God provide in a special way here during the month of May.

Some friends of this ministry are aware of the serious summer needs and the great opportunities that lie ahead, and they've agreed to match the gift of every new supporter to Revive Our Hearts (that's someone who's never given before to this ministry) up to a challenge amount of $40,000.

So if you've never before given to Revive Our Hearts, your gift of $50 this month will become $100. Your gift of $100 will become $200. You get the idea. So, whether you're a new ministry supporter or perhaps you've partnered with us in the past, would you ask the Lord how He would want you to help accelerate this movement around the world and in individual lives and homes?

Then, call us to make your gift at 1–800–569–5959, or you can online to make your donation at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Leslie: Thanks, Nancy. Well, do you ever feel the pressure to be a perfect mom? Our guest, Jani Ortlund, will address that pressure tomorrow. Please be back 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 radio series.

Topics: Parenting

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