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Friday, October 31, 2008

Repentance from a Discontent Mom

I just completed the book Passionate Housewives Desperate for God by Jennie Chancey and Stacy McDonald and what a convicting, edifying, and encouraging book it is! I cried at the beginning of the book and I cried at the end of the book.

This book confronts our feminist influenced culture, dispells all the lies we've been taught about what it means to be feminine, and presents womanhood in light of Scripture. I was truly confronted with my own sinfulness of discontentment and then encouraged to embrace my role as the keeper of my home, a helpmeet to my husband, and the builder of God's kingdom through the godly training of my children.

My mom was a career woman and even to this day she will admit, even to me, that she could never have been a housewife nor could have had the patience to stay home to take care of my sister and I. Growing up, I remember coming home to a lonely house and during the summers I felt imprisoned in my parents' home because I was never allowed to play outside and all I had to keep me company were the characters I watched on TV. As a career woman, my mom was always very busy catching up with the housework and even when I worked hard doing what I could to keep the home for her she still rarely had time to spend with my sister and I. I remember often asking my mom to spend time with us, but her response was often, "I have this to do or that..." Lastly, as children, my mom never said "I love you" to my sister and I and her way of showing "love" to us were through materialistic gifts. One day I confronted my mom by telling her that I wish she would just show us her love rather than giving us something materialistic. As a result of this fight for my mom's love, I vowed to myself that I would never be like my mom.

I became a Christian the summer after my junior year of high school and this conversion caused contention between my parents and I. My dad, especially, was not too accepting of my new found faith. Because of this contention, I looked forward to graduation so that I could leave my parents' home to pursue the life that Christ was calling me to. As I looked for colleges, I searched for ones that were way across the country. I eventually got accepted into the US Coast Guard Academy which was located in Connecticut, thousands of miles away from my parents' California home. 2 years into my college career, I felt the Lord calling me out of the Academy and into the missions' field. I looked into different Bible colleges and eventually got accepted and attended Geneva College in Pennsylvania.

While I attended Geneva, the Lord led me to a wonderfully Bible believing church and allowed me to meet many godly peers! Through the examples of the families of the church and even by visiting the homes of my friends' families I finally saw in real life the kind of home I desired to provide for my husband and children. Of the homes that really touched me, the moms of the homes were the ones who set the tone. All of them had a gentle and quiet spirit, they sincerely cared for their children and showed them much love, they loved God's Word and taught it to their children, they were industrious in the home and kept their homes in good order, they were intelligent and wise and even I felt comfortable going to them with my troubles, and their husbands trusted and praised them. This was the kind of wife and mom I wanted to be like.

Towards the end of my college career, the Lord began to work in my heart to desire marriage and children. Though I had a couple of men interested in dating me, there were really no serious pursuits. Therefore, I didn't have a particular man in mind, but when the Lord gave me this desire for marriage and children, I began praying for God to prepare me as my husband's bride as well as to prepare my husband as my head.

My prayers were not answered while I was in college and I had a huge college loan under my name to pay off. I didn't see how going into the missions' field alone with a huge debt was wise and after much prayer and consideration I applied to Corporate America. I was hired as a Manufacturing Engineer.

I moved into my own apartment, bought my own car, was the only female engineer in my department, was the leader of my own department on paper, and I was making a good amount of money for a woman in her first year out of college. For the first time in life I felt "free" and free to do whatever I pleased, or at least that's what the world tells you. Blessedly, my desire was not all "bad" because I started making plans to attend the local seminary and to get involved with the church as much as I could. However, before my own plans got too far, my future husband started pursuing me, even when I ran from him, and he pursued me until he got me.

My husband and I met in June, we officially started dating at the end of October/beginning of November, he proposed in May, and we were married in August. This was supposed to be the beginning of my "dream" family, but it wasn't. There was a lot of strife in the beginning of our marriage and much of it came from me. I always imagined marrying a pastor, but the Lord didn't. So, my husband wasn't living up to the expectations I had of him as the head of the household and I continuously nagged him about what I thought his shortcomings were. Yet, I wasn't living up to God's expectations of me as a godly wife and I was often rebellious against DearHubby.

There was at least one goal DearHubby and I had in common and that was for me to be a stay at home mom and that meant paying off all of our debt so that I could quit my job and we could start our family. Our huge college debt necessitated my working because DearHubby's income alone was not enough to pay all of our bills. Therefore, I needed to work several more years so that we could live on one income.

Yet, I often forgot about our goal and this is where my rebellion became really obvious because there was an internal tug of war within me between my own selfish desires and God's true calling. Success at work crept into my life as a priority, even though I denied it, and this priority was reflected by my decisions. I didn't listen to my husband when he told me it was time to go home and I often kept him in the car waiting for me, sometimes for up to an hour and the record being an hour forty five minutes. I even brought work home and sometimes would work into the wee hours of the night just to finish my "important" projects. Though I told my husband that our family came first my thoughts were often concerned about the next steps I needed to take to be successful at work. I cared more about what my colleagues thought about me than doing what was pleasing in the sight of the Lord, which was to submit to my husband and to remember what our goal was.

I worked in Corporate America for 5 years after college and at the height of my career I did win one of the big awards for women in the company, the Woman of the Year Award, but despite all the sacrifices I made for the company, especially the strife I put between DearHubby and I, I still had not earned the respect of my superiors. As a result of office politics, I ended my career at the same place I started, at the bottom. At that moment, the doors to quit my job seemed to open wide. With the money I would get from my company stock investments we would have all of our debt paid off. After much discussion with DearHubby and prayer, we decided that it was time to quit my job. I went into my leader's office, turned in my badge, and told him I quit. What a humbling experience.

Once I stopped working I thought things would be a lot easier, but the struggle was not over because now we lived on one income, something DearHubby and I were not used to. Since all I ever knew was working, that was the only solution I could come up with to make our struggles better. For the first several months after quitting my job I tried very hard to start my own house cleaning business. It seemed like an ideal situation because I could be flexible with my hours and set my own rate. I went house to house placing ads on door knobs. I placed ads in the laundromat and even had my own e-mail address for this cleaning business. I spent several hours a week trying hard to get any business, but since I had no previous experience in house cleaning and no house cleaning references, I got no where with this business. Then I thought about my dream of starting my own crocheting business and looked on the internet for crafters or craft stores looking for crocheted items. I even started my own website that displayed my work and tried eBay. That idea failed too. I had to come to terms with being an at home wife and at that point I felt like I lost my identity.

Initially, being an at home wife was fun. I was finally able to keep up with all the housework and make my house look beautiful. I was even proud to have "retired" early because that's what most Americans dream of and whenever someone asked me what I did I often answered that I was the COO (Chief Operating Officer) of our estate.

However, my enthusiasm didn't last very long. DearHubby and I lived in the area for 5 years and we had no friends. Our full time Corporate America job consumed our lives so much that we had no time to build relationships. We also had just left the local church we attended on and off for 2 years and were still looking for a church to call home. Therefore, being at home became lonely. In addition, our finances were still so unstable that DearHubby didn't think it was wise to start our family yet. I felt trapped at home. Not only had I lost my identity, but now I felt like I had no purpose in life. Being an at home wife made me feel like I was non-existent and I lost sight of the kind of home I wanted to provide for my family.

This feeling of not having a purpose spurred me on to get involved in a Women's Bible Study at the current church we were attending to find purpose in ministry. There were many women at this study who craved to know God's Word and I became very excited because I thought the Lord was calling me to get involved in being a leader in women's ministry. It was a neat time because I was able to build some good relationships and to this day the women I met here are some of my closer friends. Yet, once again, the Lord humbled me by closing the doors of opportunity and DearHubby and I eventually left this church because we were not comfortable with their teaching of God's Word and we were troubled by that. We returned to the first local church we left because we realized it was the most Biblical of all the others we had visited.

Finding a church to call home was important because after a year of being out of work, DearHubby and I finally agreed that it was time to start our family. We returned to the first local church we left because we were finally expecting our first and we wanted our children to be brought up in a church that taught God's Word. We were excited that we could finally start our family and we decided that when we returned to this church, this is the one we would stay and call home. On the Sunday we returned, I felt some cramping during the service and a few hours later I had a miscarriage. Once again, the Lord humbled me by closing this door of opportunity to begin our family.

Some would have taken the miscarriage as a "sign" to leave the church, but we continued on in this church and the following Wednesday and Thursday mornings I attended the women's study. Though I was hurting inside, I wanted to make a fresh start, and went into the study with a heart to learn and serve. I was really impressed by the leader of the group and discovered that she was one of the pastor's wives. I was excited to attend her studies and thought that I would learn to lead studies by studying under her. I went to both her Wednesday and Thursday studies just to soak in as much mentoring as I could.

Since we weren't able to start a family yet, I also thought that perhaps the Lord wanted to me to be more involved in the Women's Ministry. What else would I do with my time?

I filled my schedule with visits. Everyday I had someone different to visit. Sometimes, my visits took me 2 hours north into Pennsylvania to visit a non-Christian friend to continue a relationship with her hoping that she and her husband would become a Christian, sometimes my visits took me 2 hours north into New Jersey to visit my old college roomie who was struggling in her Christian walk, and sometimes it was just right here in my local town, visiting with my friends that I met at the church we left, to continually encourage them in the Word.

I signed up to be a part of the meals ministry and made it known that I was available to do meals any day of the week.

I took on a co-coordinator position for one of the women's ministries in church called Sister Encouraging Sister.

Then the pastor's wife, who leads our studies, got sick and asked me to facilitate one of her studies...Later on she asked me to consider being a co-facilitator for her whole Wednesday morning group.

And I even found a part-time job working as a circuit trainer at Curves and thought it was the most wonderful place to work because I got to meet a lot of non-Christians with whom I could share the gospel with or at least invite to church.

My life was beginning to be filled with purpose again and everything I was doing was all good and for the Lord. My zeal for the Women's Ministry soared and in a way I became prideful. Once again I wasn't living up to God's expectations of me as a godly wife and I began neglecting the care of my home. I had more important things to do for God than keep up with the laundry and dishes and I often had a good excuse for my husband about why I couldn't get to them.

At this point, I wanted to do more and reach out to more and one evening as I watched DearHubby enjoy some time on the internet on a motorcycle forum I came up with a brilliant idea, I would start my own Women's Forum!!! Initially the forum would just be for local women, but as I had very few interest in the forum, I thought I could go nationwide. I contacted Christian Colleges and left them the URL of my site to be advertised to their alumni women. I then searched the internet for Christian groups to pursuade to come over to my forum. It was a slow start, but I was not going to be discouraged and give up.

I eventually found an internet Christian group of women that were very Biblically minded and though my intentions were to initially advertise my forum to this group I became a true member of it and sincerely got involved with the lives of these women. I was very excited about this group because I had finally met women whom I wanted to emulate as wives and mothers. They had a separate group just for wives and mothers and on this group some of them would just share the every day going ons in their home. It was amazing how they thoroughly enjoyed home life, sincerely loved their children, and truly hid God's Word in their heart.

As I became more involved in this group God humbled me once more. One day without warning I was kicked out of this internet group by the owner. Though I had not advertised my forum I was kicked out of the group and considered a spammer. There were a few devotionals shared on the group that are also available elsewhere on the internet which I posted on my forum as a way of sharing encouragement to whom ever visited. The ownder did not like how I "copied" their material and I was no longer allowed back to the group. The owner told me that if I am going to be a leader of any women's ministry, then I needed to read God's Word on my own, do my own research of good Christian devotionals, and if I were to write, then to write my own articles. It was quite a harsh confrontation, even if it was just through e-mail. Much of what the owner of this group "accused" me of was not true, but I was still humbled, moreso by the women in the group than anything else. What I was humbled by was the example these women were. They were teaching me how to be a godly woman just by how they lived their lives and as I reflected on my own life, I realized that I was not yet equipped to teach because I had not yet learned to be content in the place in life God placed me. I was always looking for something bigger to do and in my mind pursuing a BIG dream for the Lord made it alright, but I was confronted with the truth, I was not content with the role God had given me now.

So, what is it that I have to repent of now? If I was confronted with the truth back then, why do I still need to repent?

The lesson didn't sink in. I knew it in my head, but I still had and still have a difficult time accepting Biblical womanhood.

Passionate Housewives Desperate for God starts off with a story about a stay at home mom named Carolyn who has 5 children.

Carolyn wasn't sure what to believe anymore. It seemed the more she considered the unfairness of her lot in life, the more overwhelming her depression became. Nothing but escape sounded appealing. Her eyes burned with tears as the enemy of her soul pointed to the vast array of pleasures and accolades that could have been hers. If only she would listen to her heart, he whispered, she could be free from all this drudgery.

Just like Carolyn, I am influenced by feminist thought. Though I know all these to be untrue, this is what is taught in society:
- biblical submission in marriage is like slavery
- women under the unnecessary bondage of male headship will find themselves feeling depressed and trapped
- wives locked up in a house taking care of children all day will rightly feel useless and frustrated because they are living in bondage
(Passionate Housewives Desparate for God, p.7)

My sin is that I still struggle with these thoughts and because of these thoughts, I often sin against my husband and children. Though I never wanted to be like my mom, my thoughts are often after her. Since I have 2 little ones, one currently 2 and another one currently 1, I don't have much opportunity to be alone. This post, in itself, has been in the works for weeks as I often only have a moment here or there to write when the girls are asleep. As I struggle to find time to do tasks and often feeling like I've accomplished nothing during the day, I often say to myself, "This is exactly why my mom went to work, to feel accomplished and to get away from all this."

Sometimes I think, "DearHubby uses work and projects to get away from the family."

Or sometimes I think, "Raising children is too hard. I don't have an elementary education degree, I have no clue what I'm doing, and because of that my children are turning out to be very disobedient. Maybe I should return to work and place my children in a good Christian day care where they will be taught the right way."

And the most sinful of all, "I hate my life. Why did God put me here? I want to just leave and live my life the way I want to."

As a result of these sinful thoughts, the attitude I have towards my work here at home, my children, and my husband is very negative. Under my breath I am always complaining about how hard my life is and how much I hate it. When I am having a hard day I often take it out on my children, especially DearDaughter1, through a lack of patience and a quick temper. Then, DearHubby takes the rest of the beating when he gets home. Sometimes he doesn't even get a nice hello, but is greeted with an angry wife.

Through Scriptures presented to me in Passionate Housewives Desperate for God, I was confronted with and convicted of my sin of selfishness and discontentement. I literally cried from cover to cover because that is how much darkness was hidden in my heart, but the good news is that light was shed on that darkness and God is helping me accept my role as a woman and to truly understand Biblical womanhood.

...great blessing comes when we allow God to transform our hearts and we walk in accordance with our unique calling. Proverbs 31 tells us that the wife and mother who "looks well to ways of her household" (Proverbs 31:27) will receive praise from her family: "Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her." She is a crown to her husband (Proverbs 12:4) and is viewed as a woman of invaluable worth (Proverbs 31:10). Her ministry is her family, and "her own works" praise her in the gates (Proverbs 31:31), even as her husband proclaims, "Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all" (Proverbs 31:29).

Ladies, we have a great and glorious work before us. Keeping the home has been entrusted to us by God. Under the leadership of our husbands, we are to train up our children in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6); we are to create beauty and comfort within our homes (Proverbs 31:22), and the work of our hands should reflect industry and productivity (Proverbs 31:13-21). We are to worship alongside our children, teaching them the laws of God (Proverbs 6:20) night and day (Deuteronomy 6:6-7). We are commanded to practice hospitality to strangers and friends alike (1 Peter 4:8-9) - sacrificing in love a portion of ourselves (1 John 3:16) to those who enter our homes.

Using our gifts and talents to glorify God in our role as helpers to our husbands, all within the well-choreographed dance of home life, imparts a quiet lesson to a watching world and communicates true contentment in the loveliness of womanhood. It declares "His glory among the heathen, His wonders among all people" (Psalm 96:3) and multiplies generations of those who love and glorify God.

We need not be desperate! With joy in our hearts (Psalm 19:8, 119:11) and purpose in our steps (Psalm 37:23), we can walk confidently in the role that God ordained for us since the beginning of time:

Thus saith the Lord, "Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old
paths, where is the good way, and walk therin, and ye shall find rest for your
souls." (Jeremiah 6:16)
(Passionate Housewives Desparate for God, p.34-36)

So how am I changing?

First and foremost, I am communicating more with our God. I am learning what His will is for me by reading more of His Word and disciplining myself to hide His Word in my heart. It's difficult because there's a lot of things going through a mommy's mind in the day, but God is good in giving us the desires of our hearts. I am also praying to God more and not just praying for my needs or my family's needs but also for the church body's needs and am learning to pray more with confidence, not self-confidence, but confidence in God's unfailing love.

Second, with God's grace and strength, he is helping me learn how to practice submission towards my husband, and is helping me see the protection I have under submission. Every morning I've been praying for DearHubby using Stormie Omartian's The Power of a Praying Wife as a guide to pray for specific areas in DearHubby's life. Though I've been waking early to make DearHubby's lunch for years, I've been trying to do it without a grumbling heart. I've been trying to greet him with a smile and a kiss rather than a negative and sour attitude. I've been trying to show more respect towards my husband in front of my children rather than yell at him. I've been asking about DearHubby's goals for the week and trying to do all I can to allow him the opportunity to accomplish them without grumbling or complaining to him about them. I've been thankful for DearHubby's hard work so that he can provide our family with a roof over our heads and enough income so that I can stay home.

Third, I am seeing my children through the lens of Scripture and realizing that they are truly a gift from God and that it is truly a privilege to be given children to raise them up for our heavenly Father. Though it is difficult for me to admit it, I did see my children as a burden. Scripture has made me realize the great responsibility parents have to train children up in godliness. Our children are the next generation of Christians and their children are the next generation of Christians. Missionary work and kingdom building begins in our own home and extends from there!

Fourth, I am learning to embrace my role as the keeper of our home rather than be discouraged by it. This one's still a difficult one for me to take a hold of, but I thank God that He is always working in us. A few months ago I wrote a Mission Statement and I think that will help me stay focused on what keeping a home is really about:

Housekeeping Mission Statement:
To create a place of refuge for my family, friends, and visitors that brings love, peace, and joy and promotes loving and serving God and others above all else.

I will accomplish this mission by keeping order to the house in our primary needs first like providing the opportunity to care for our spiritual and bodily health, good nutritious meals, clean laundry, paid bills, and sufficient funds in the bank. I will also submit to my husband's priorities and needs before all. All other tasks, at this season of life, comes secondary and will not be a cause of frustration or burden if not done.

I will do all my tasks trusting in and seeking God's strength and peace and with joy and graciousness. When things get frustrating I will step away from any task and seek God in prayer to help me.

Fifth, DearHubby and I have prayed about the ministries I am to be involved with at church and we have decided that the Meals Ministry and the Sunday Nursery is where I can be the most helpful and yet still have the flexibility with my little ones.

This world we live in, encourages us to focus on the self, and the feminist movement has empowered women all the more to leave the life that God calls us to and gives permission to selfish pursuits and ambitions.

Yet, God's Word paints such a beautiful picture for womanhood! As Christians, our chief end in life is to glorify and enjoy God forever! As Christian women we are called to be our husband's helpmeet, to train our children in godliness, to be keepers of our home, and to open our arms to the poor and needy. When we stop believing in the lies of this world and start trusting in God and His Word, we become free to embrace our glorious calling and "by living out our lives in a way that truly glorifies Him, an unbelieving world will be able to say, 'Where does that kind of love come from? What kind of God do you serve?'"

And we can answer in truth, "We serve a mighty and powerful God!"

When we consistenly renew our minds by absorbing Scripture and by passionately embracing the sacred calling God has truly given us as women, we will refute the perverted image of the desperate housewife by believing His promises and showing the world there is something better for which we can truly be passionate!
(Passionate Housewives Desperate for God, p. 47)

(All italicized portions of this post are quoted from Passionate Housewives Desperate for God)

As a Post Script, I want to add that I don't think the authors of the book oppose women who work. There are some women who work out of necessity and the Bible doesn't clarify whether a woman should or should not work. I believe the authors are talking to those Christian women who have chosen to work out of selfish ambition and to encourage them towards and to embrace Biblical womanhood.

Lastly, my dad became a Christian several years ago and since that time, he and my mom have dramatically changed their lives. There were many things I despised about my mom when I was younger, but I want to add that looking back, there are many good things about my mom that I treasure. God is a forgiving God and through God's forgiveness towards me as a sinner I have learned to forgive the hurts I experienced as a child. Forgetting is the more difficult part and the hurts have haunted me more as a mommy because I've seen the root of my sin stemming from childhood hurts. Yet, today, I can say to my mom and dad that I do love them, which I could not before.

Post started October 17, 2008 @ 2:49pm and completed and posted on October 31, 2008 @ 10:41pm.

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