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The following meditations will enrich your prayer life and family life.
PEACE WITH MOTHERHOOD
No matter how much we try to ignore it, the secular culture can affect our mind-set about childbearing. Our fertility is one of God’s greatest gifts to us women, and yet it is often presented as a curse to be medicated away or to be cut off by surgery. Having children is considered just one of many options for personal self-fulfillment. Children themselves are often thought of as time hogs and financial burdens, more like investments to be managed than individuals to be loved.
And yet, the truth is that the majority of women still have children, which sets up an internal conflict and a lack of peace. A friend of mine, Andrea, shared that even with a strong Christian faith, her perspective on motherhood was skewed.
“With my first three pregnancies, when I realized that I was expecting, I grieved. I was sad about how little time my husband and I would have to enjoy with each other without the stresses of parenting. I grieved my independent lifestyle, my freedom, and my energy. I found childbearing and child rearing to be very restricting, exhausting, and even debilitating. Because I came from a broken and abusive home, a healthy family life was foreign to me, and I did not feel fit for the task of parenting. I struggled deeply because although I love my children, I couldn’t help thinking that I would have been able to love them more if they had come later in my marriage and at a much more reasonable pace!”
Thankfully, Andrea went on to share about her change of heart after she experienced a period of infertility and then went on to have three more children. “This Scripture passage has completely enlightened me on my mothering journey: ‘Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control’ (1 Timothy 2:15). This verse is my testimony that as much as I rejected childbearing for worldly reasons and the desires of the flesh, God showed me his love and specific plan for my life through childbearing. The pregnancies have healed me physically, and seeing God’s power in my life firsthand has healed me emotionally and spiritually.”
Lord Jesus, you are my peace. Help me to view the uniquely feminine gift of fertility as you do, not as the world does.
THE PEACE OF AN ORGANIZED HOME
Okay, I’ll admit it. I’m a little compulsive when it comes to keeping the house clean and organized. For example, I have a hard time starting dinner if my countertops are littered with dishes and food from breakfast and lunch. Although I enjoy getting the newspaper on Sunday mornings, by Sunday afternoon I am gathering up the scattered sections and tossing them in the recycling bin because it drives me nuts when they get spread out all over the house.
Neatness is not a virtue I asked to have. It just sort of increased in me as the size of our family also increased. Some women’s magazines and online blogs elevate neatness to a moral virtue. I don’t think it is, but it is a simple fact that as the “CEO and plant manager” of a large family, I have to budget the time to straighten and clean the house.
Someone once told me, oh so cheerfully, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” However, sticky floors and piles of dirty laundry are not small stuff for me. There was a brief period of time when I did try to stay calm and play with my preschoolers while ignoring the mounting chaos. But you know what? It only revealed even more that I prefer “sweating” to living with a mess.
It’s easy to resist making it a priority to stay on top of household chores. We can easily rationalize putting it off by thinking that we have to choose between a tidy house or time with our family and friends. But it’s not an either/or situation. It’s not that I think that cleaning and organizing are more important than reading to my toddler or talking with my teenagers. But when I’m organized, it strengthens and supports my ability to do everything else. Setting priorities and then managing our time well so that we can complete what needs to get done help us stay calm, peaceful, and ready for the next thing that God is calling us to do.
Lord Jesus, you are my peace. Help me to prioritize my time, energy, and talents as I seek to care for the household you have given me.
My husband’s job entails a fair amount of travel. Thankfully, he is rarely away on weekends, but his irregular trips during the week can still be difficult. Throw in a night or two of his getting home late or of me trying to get to my volunteer commitments after dinner, and all of a sudden I begin to feel like a single parent.
If his work schedule were more predictable, I would have backup plans, babysitters on tap, and a broader understanding from family and friends about the times I cannot follow through on reasonably made plans. As it is, however—and even though I know that sporadic travel is just a part of my husband’s job—the erratic doubling of my workload and adjusting of responsibilities can leave me feeling unappreciated and resentful.
Are there areas of hardship in your life that are practically invisible to those around you? Are you caring for elderly parents on top of raising a family? Are you regularly supervising more teenagers than just your own after school and on weekends? There can be many unseen or sporadic strains in life, and we can often feel resentful when no one seems to acknowledge them or thank us for what we do.
Pope Francis has suggested three phrases that all families should use in order to live in harmony. “If families can say these three things, they will be fine. ‘Sorry,’ ‘excuse me,’ ‘thank you.’ How often do we say ‘thank you’ in our families? How often do we say ‘thank you’ to those who help us, those close to us, those at our side throughout life? All too often we take everything for granted!”
In truth, intermittent work travel is as difficult for my husband as it is for me, just for different reasons. But if I were to take Pope Francis’ advice, I would look for opportunities to thank my husband for providing for our family instead of harboring resentment over his unavoidable absences. Simply showing appreciation for what the other person is doing can go a long way toward helping us bear up under hardships and not feel taken for granted.
Lord Jesus, you are my peace. Help me to acknowledge hardships and not take other people for granted.
Read more of Heidi Bratton’s inspiring reflections about family life, peace, and the Christian life in her latest book, Finding God’s Peace in Everyday Challenges: 100 Meditations for Women (The Word Among Us Press, 2015). Available at wau.org/books