As a mama of seven – a lose-library-books, holes-in-the-toes-of-socks gaggle of kids – I have sought many a time to be better at motherhood. After all kinds of bumps in the road, messes that stayed behind for days, and the pain of watching my kids go through heartache, there were times I thought it just wasn’t possible. Then I found a kindred spirit in Ruth Schwenk. Her story runs parallel to mine, and hers is a life-giving friendship. And her words in The Better Mom– they speak deeply to the soul, allow me to let a breath out: one “me too” at a time. It’s a grace to welcome Ruth to the farm’s front porch today…
Her arms swung around me, clutching to my neck. Leaning in close, almost nose to nose, she declared, “You’re the best mommy in the whole world!”
My heart melted like it usually does when my five-year-old makes such statements.
What mom doesn’t love to hear her child declare such love?
I breathed a deep sigh and whispered, “Mom loves you sooooo much!” “Me love you too,” she hoarsely whispered back.
I have these exchanges quite often with my children. But this particular time, I had something else going on inside of me as my daughter so boldly declared her devotion.
I had a heaviness on my heart that she was completely unaware of. What she didn’t know is that deep down I wasn’t feeling like “the best mommy in the whole world.” Instead, I felt like a mess.
A big mess.
It had been a very stressful season in my life, and I wasn’t the mom I had been for the last ten years.
After suddenly losing my father-in-law to a tragic car accident and my mother-in-law just two years later, all in the midst of leaving the church my husband had been on staff at for ten years to move to a new church in a new town with new friends, I had let my overwhelming circumstances crowd my heart and mind.
Magnifying my personal state, through all of this I had let the nagging voices of doubt fill my head, and I began to question whether I was a good mom at all.
I was tired, worn out and struggling to keep it all together. I was fully aware that I needed to make a change. What I had to come to grips with was glaringly obvious. That change needed to begin with me.
I don’t know how reality may have shattered your dreams and expectations for being a mom, but the truth is, momming is very different from what most of us expect it to be.
Who has visions of staying up at night with a sick child? Or dreams of washing and folding what feels like endless loads of laundry? Our dreams of family nights, game times, and meaningful conversations are quickly swallowed up by the mundane and even painful aspects of parenting.
We usually don’t start out by being in over our heads, but we can quickly get there. We might be in tough circumstances, but we certainly are in good company when we feel in over our heads.
I can’t help but think of some of the difficulties the people of God faced when He called them to fulfill His purposes.
Abraham left his tribal homeland.
Moses led Israel out of slavery in Egypt.
Esther saved a nation by asking favors of a king who held her life—and the lives of her people—in his hands.
Nehemiah left a palace to restore a city in ruins.
Noah confronted a corrupt city.
All of it was hard, risky, sacrificial work. But it was the type of work that matters.
In every example, God was doing a good work. He was changing lives, redirecting generations, altering outcomes, and restoring what had been destroyed.
It was hard work because it mattered.
God was accomplishing His purposes, pushing back darkness with His shining light.
What I love about each of these stories is not just what God did with these faithful acts of obedience.
I love that in every story, the men and women involved were not just used by God, they were forever changed by God. God had given them more than they could handle, but He didn’t ask them to handle it alone.
So what if being a mom who seriously wonders how she can handle the mess that is on her plate is exactly where God wants you to be?
What if the worn out, scared, exhausted, I-can’t-do- this feelings are exactly the place where real transformation begins?
What if that is where God wants you to be, but not where He wants you to stay?
What if the challenges of being a good mom is God’s way of getting your attention so you can focus on being a better mom—God’s way?
The work of momming is a high calling. It’s full of goodness, adventure, fun, hard work, and sacrifice. Yes, it’s messy. Unpredictable. And at times, overwhelming.
But the mess is where God wants to meet us. Not to stay there, but to grow there.
God is inviting us not to do more, but become more. There is a better way—a way that is more than just feeling tired, overwhelmed, stressed, and ready for it all to be over.
God wants something more for us. He has something more.The way to becoming a better mom starts not with what we are doing, but in asking who God is inviting us to become.
When we signed up to become mothers, we thought we were going to get baby giggles and snuggly bedtimes and cozy family dinners.
Then we got colicky babies, bedtime battles, and five o’clock “arsenic hour.”
But on top of all those things, we got more—so much more.
More grace. More growth. More love.
We soon discover that just as God is using us to grow our children — God is using motherhood to grow us.
Ruth Schwenk is the founder of The Better Mom, and along with her husband, the creator of For the Family. She is a pastor’s wife, mom of four energetic kids, a lover of coffee, and dreamer of big dreams. A graduate of Moody Bible Institute, Ruth is the author of The Better Mom and the coauthor of Hoodwinked and Pressing Pause. Ruth and her husband, Patrick, are the coauthors of For Better or for Kids. Ruth and Patrick have been in full-time church ministry for over fifteen years, and live in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Ruth’s newly-released book, The Better Mom: Growing in Grace between Perfection and the Mess, calls moms to embrace the work of the Holy Spirit inside our (often weary) souls. At the heart of The Better Mom is the message that we, as mothers, don’t have to settle for being apathetic or struggle to be perfect; that instead, God is inviting us to meet Him in between and let Him do His work in us.
[ Our humble thanks to Zondervan for their partnership in today’s devotion ]