Post-Primary Depression

Soaring not Striving

A word or two more on what I introduced in my last post as post-primary depression .

As many of you know I suffered from post-natal depression, or postpartum depression following the birth of our first child.

While the depression continues to be a reality for me, those early years were certainly a distinct stage of the ongoing difficulties I face. It was therefore quite a surprise to me to find myself experiencing a very similar set of symptoms more recently and also quite a help to me when I started to see the parallels that may have caused that.

I didn’t find pregnancy easy. I worried a lot. I felt so responsible for this precious bundle I was carrying  and at the same time so impotent – so unable to help her if anything went wrong. But… in comparison to life after birth, pregnancy was never-the-less a time when I felt increasingly prepared and on top of things and bizarrely confident that this state of affairs was only going to improve as life as a mummy continued.

During pregnancy I planned and read and decided and studied and prepared for having a baby, for being a mummy. One month before my due date my bag was packed, the house was ready and I was as confident that I could tell the difference between a cry for milk and a cry of tiredness as any experienced twitcher distinguishing between the calls of different birds.

My due date came and went. 15 days later I was definitely not feeling in control. I ended up never going into labour and having an emergency Cesarean at three in the morning. As to discerning her different cries – all I could tell you was that it was either very loud, or very, very loud.  I cried and worried a lot. I found myself at a complete loss and worse than that – I was completely surprised to find myself at a complete loss and even worse completely unforgiving of myself for being so.

A feeling that didn’t really let up! At no stage in the infant years do you feel an expert – the babies and toddlers are always ahead of you! You get one thing in place and they change all the rules!

Then suddenly – well about 9 years, 3 more pregnancies, and one very sad stillbirth later – I found myself in my children’s primary years.

Once again my sense of being on top of things tentatively crept out of its hole and showed its face. As time went on I once again grew confident that this more settled state of affairs might go on making itself more and more at home with us.

It isn’t that I found this stage a doddle. Not by a long shot. I don’t tend to do easy.

Life with me is rather like watching the England football team play: it’s a ‘never quite sure if they’ll pull it off, edge of your seat, watch it through your fingers’ kind of game.

Until Sunday’s 6-1 victory against Panama  that is. What a totally different experience as a viewer. I actually enjoyed watching them!

No it certainly hasn’t been easy…


But it was a particular stage that, for our family at least, had a certain stability to it and which is now coming to an end.

As I planned and read and decided and studied and worked at being a great mum I was in a sort of second pregnancy. A holding, growing, and developing space within which I was still highly influential and where my intentionality could be put to work on the front line of our children’s lives, – spread out at the meal table, played with as a family in the sitting room and given pride of place in the family diary.

Releasing my eldest child into secondary school was (from the vantage point of nearly two years) rather like giving birth all over again – although thankfully she wasn’t two weeks late second time around time and it didn’t stop me driving for six weeks!

I have no idea whether this will ring any bells with anyone, but recognising the return of old struggles and feelings and anxiety within this context has helped me in lots of ways. Not least because I realise I have been here before – emotionally anyway.

What would I say to my new-mum self if I could somehow get a message to her across the years?

I would tell her to relax and play the long game. To not over analyse every cry and nappy and worry every time my daughter fell asleep in the ‘wrong’ place or at the ‘wrong’ time. I would tell her to enjoy the lovely moments and sit as lightly as possible with the trickier ones. To enjoy HER – not the baby from the book, but a unique new person designed from head to toe by God. 

I look back now and see that I planned and prepared for a baby for me to be a mummy to and not for an individual to be in relationship with.

Of course I probably wouldn’t listen to myself even if I could send that message – in fact I’m sure plenty of people did give me that message!

BUT… I can listen to myself now.

And not only can I listen, but I might even believe myself this time.

So here I go, with the Lord’s help and remembering that I am still me and that’s o.k…I am going to relax and keep playing the long game.

I’m not going to over analyse every curled lip and ridiculous attempt to justify the unjustifiable.

I will help her with, but not lose sleep over, her sleep routines. At the end of that day (literally!) it is up to her to work out ways to get to sleep and she’ll manage and she’ll learn, and I’ll be there for her in her tiredness as she does so. And if it means ‘having to’ read Anne of Green Gables to her – well that’s a sacrifice I am prepared to pay!

I’ll enjoy the lovely moments with her – remembering to celebrate who she is. And I will run to the Lord with lament and tears and then patience and trust when those moments are overshadowed either by her rebellion, self-satisfaction and independence by my own many failings and fears. I’ll ask him to give me more love, more grace, more patience and more mercy and with his peace garrisoning my heart I’ll emerge, leaving my fears with him and myself free (or free-er) to parent without panic.

So does this mean I will not be at a loss? By no means. But it might mean that I am less at a loss at being at a loss and kinder to myself and therefore to those around me in my lostness.

Perhaps I have finally grasped that whatever books I read I’m never going to read the future and therefore I am going to need to be prepared to be surprised. And perhaps I have finally grasped a little more of the trust I can have in the one who is never surprised, who not only knows the future, but who writes it.

Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. Psalm 139:16


Maybe I have accepted that no matter how well-developed my theories and skills are they will be put into play not on a blank canvas that is mine to design, but poured into the melting pot of relationship and therefore into a complicated, unpredictable, beautiful mess.

Perhaps I have seen and repented that my preparation, my intentionality, was always too much about me. Our children are not our projects; our identity or our life’s work. They are individuals whom God has made fearfully and wonderfully and given to us for a time, with a remit to nurture and bring up in the training of the Lord.

Which brings us full circle back to…


Pitfall 1: Being intentional and being self-forgetful / humble is a tricky combination.


So I guess I will press on in my me-ish way – but just maybe I’ll manage to be a bit more intentional in avoiding the pitfalls of intentionality.


And again!

imagesPitfall 3: Being intentional is easily mistaken for being in control

You’ve probably gathered by now that I like to be in control! A personality trait that no doubt many of us intentional parents share and can both celebrate and curse in equal measure.

As we thought about in my last post…..

(Apologies for my absence by the way in the unlikely event of anyone noticing it: I blame the delightful distraction of holidays and family weddings! )

In my last post we saw that careful consideration, caring and planning are good things! As is parenting with the grain of one’s temperament. However, there is another side to this coin and it is important to recognise that thriving on being in control and parenting is also a bit of a toxic mix.

From the moment we decide to ‘go for it’ we relinquish control. At the very point of making an intentional, thought-through decision we let go of the reins. We may take vitamins and pee on sticks, take our temperature and wave our legs in the air (or was that just me?) but what happens next is simply not up to us. While it is natural and wise to consider all the various factors involved in the timing of giving birth: the gaps between our children, having a September baby, where we are in our work lives, our marriage, our house renovations…all these calculations can only ever be faintly pencilled in.

Then, for a little while, in the middle of the pregnancy, if all is going well, a small sense of control creeps back. Some of the uncertainty is over – a rough timescale and list of appointments and stages are set out before you. You read the books about babies and you make the lists and write the birth plan and it feels basically do-able. We are back in the driving seat – even if the seat-belt sits rather oddly over our growing bump and getting out of the car in a tight parking space becomes a bit trickier!

But, it is only a very little while because the memo about your due date doesn’t seem to travel through the placenta and once they finally do come it becomes increasingly obvious that your baby hasn’t read the same books as you!

Either that, or they have in fact read the books and simply decided they were speaking rot!

Then slowly, ever so slowly, as the baby and toddler years start to pass we claw back some ‘control’ over our lives. We drink a cup of tea and realise it is still vaguely warm. We get a full night’s sleep. We sit through a church service without being called into crèche or constantly, yet surreptitiously, passing ‘quiet’ snacks to our toddler. Our bodies, though they will never be the same, bear some resemblance (a second cousin once removed for example) to what they used to be and our clothes no longer have to be sniffed for baby sick before we go out in them.

At the same time as clawing back some of this control over our own lives (at least for those of us who have been given the generous gift of good health and well-being in our family situations) we continue to enjoy a semblance of control over the lives of our children.

Their lives are within certain boundaries which we manage quite closely. What they eat (or at least what they are offered to eat!) and who they meet are pretty much up to us, or at very least are well-known to us and within our sphere of influence.

I say ‘control’ and semblance of control because whoever we are and whatever we are doing control is at best very limited and often an illusion. Perhaps strong and active influence is a better term? I feel a new post coming on!

For those of us who have sought to be one step ahead of the game: who have planned meals and budgets and limited television and screen time; planned in family time and bible time and quiet play time and routine bed times this sense of being in control is only heightened.

And once again, without realising it, we start to get our parenting maths badly wrong:

a) I have planned things well and wisely and worked really hard at it (or at least endeavoured to).
b) Things are going relatively well and in many ways are getting easier.
c) If I keep planning things well, and thinking through things carefully and working hard I can be confident that this state of affairs will continue and all will go according to plan.

Hence our intentionality as parents is not only in danger of morphing into a bogus guarantee (pitfall 2), but also – particularly during certain more settled stages of parenting – of giving an illusion of control that simply doesn’t exist.

And so when the next stage hits it is like having a bucket of cold water thrown in your face.




Or as if, having finally gained my footing as a parent, I was walking along with increasing confidence totally unaware of the cliff I was about to walk off!



But now the initial shock has worn off I find myself able to philosophise as I free fall through the air.



I find my experience of life post-primary very akin to that of birth and babies. So similar in fact that I have dubbed my struggles over the last year or two as post-primary depression.

I thank God that we did have a relatively settled period in our lives while our children were in primary school. When the children are small the stages change and shift before you’ve even had time to acknowledge their existence. Life is a constant bucket of water in the face and it has been good to have a season of recovery and consolidation.

A season rather like the middle trimester of a straightforward pregnancy. The nerves and fragility and sickness of early pregnancy have passed, you are comfortably aware of the baby growing inside of you and more able to share that joy with those around you. The discomfort, uncertainty and potential dangers/complications of late pregnancy are some way off still and meanwhile your baby is getting on with developing and growing thanks to the wonderful environment you are providing.

But, I also thank God for this next stage: for all that it has already taught me of God – the ultimate patient, gracious, and generous Father; for all it has already challenged me with and taught me about myself; and for all it is revealing about the amazing individuals God has entrusted to me to mother.

The Pitfalls of Intentionality – the sequel – falling all over again!



Pitfall 2: The wisdom of being intentional can mask the foolishness of believing that intentionality guarantees ‘success’.

Sadly it is all too short a step from being intentional in our parenting (or indeed in anything) to believing in the power of intentionality.

The good intention of doing what I* can in my parenting in faithful obedience to God becomes part of a very bad equation.

(*a limited creature with much of the old self remaining)

The logic becomes: “BECAUSE I am doing what I can in order for my family to arrive at the intended destination we WILL definitely arrive at that destination.

And, if I am being really honest I should add: “And not only arrive, but arrive via my preferred route and in accordance with my preferred timetable thank you very much.”

In other words: we intentional parents feel that we are owed our dues – don’t we?

It’s horrible to type, but if I am honest I can imagine myself thinking the following in a few years’ time:

Why is that child going strong with the Lord when mine is lukewarm at best? His parents didn’t drive halfway across the country to get him to camp! There were no family devotions in that house – I’m not sure the parents even had quiet times themselves or prayed for their children. They certainly didn’t go to any Christian parenting seminars or read all the books I read. What was the point of all my hard work and heartache? Their son is working for a church and engaged to a lovely Christian girl and I’m not even sure if my daughter goes to church – it is so hard to get any communication from her above the occasional text message.

Or in other words…


At which point I am sounding dangerously like the workers hired at the start of day in Matthew 20, or the older brother in Luke 15.

Which begs the question: Why am I parenting intentionally and who for?

Well the first answer is for God, for my children and for lots of really godly reasons.

I parent intentionally because God has given us wise ways to follow and it takes intentionality to live that way as aliens – saved, but still sinful – in a foreign, broken world.

I parent intentionally because I love my children and to think of them not enjoying the grace of God and the beauty of his holiness and the blessings of being his beloved children is so painful that it takes my breath away. It is like a punch to my heart, soul and gut that even in its ‘what if’ form threatens to send me reeling and engulf me in crippling pain and fear.

I thank God for the intentional parenting that he has helped me to do over the years and will, I pray, continue to help me to do. It is right to care about these things.

BUT with all the good that is in the ‘whys’ and ‘who fors’ above there is also something that sounds dangerously close to: “I parent intentionally to get what I want.”

But hold on – surely if ‘what I want’ is their salvation then that is a good thing right?

Well, yes and no.

Yes – wanting my children to be saved is a good thing.
Yes – wanting to be faithful to my God-given role as their mother – presenting and displaying the gospel and not hindering its work in their lives – is a good thing.
Yes – being a providential means of grace in their lives as bring them up in the training of the Lord is a good thing.

BUT read the sentence again:

“I parent intentionally to get what I want.”

Pared right down, the sentiment at the heart of it all is looking less and less healthy for me, less and less glorifying to God and is dragging my parenting further and further away from grace.

Following the path of this sentence through the years I will either be:

a) Proud and satisfied and a vocal advocate of intentional parenting and all it promises to deliver, and in danger of idolising / relying on my children’s godly lives for my sense of peace and identity;
b) Resentful, worn out, disappointed, bitter, self-loathing and seeing myself as a failure and / or angry with God for not keeping his part of the bargain, full of regrets, jealous, fearful and unhappy.

And never mind ‘through the years’ – my current struggles reveal that too much of my happiness and stability and peace is wrapped up in how my children react to me.

Because, like the older brother’s years of service on his father’s land and the vineyard workers’ hours of labour in the vineyard through the heat of the day, my intentional parenting is really all rather concentrated on me.   Which is something I both need to repent of and be forgiven for, but also be freed from the burden of.

As with every other aspect of my life – I want to win, to get, to have, to be better, to show off, to feel successful and validated, to be accepted, and ultimately (because that is all very tiring) to feel I’ve done enough so I can stop and rest.

How much better to parent first and foremost for my Father, the one in charge of the vineyard. To trust my Father’s love, acceptance of me, wisdom, and fairness. To long for what delights and pleases his good and will. Instead, like the older brother, I resent the Father’s generosity to and love for others and doubt his love for and generosity to me.

In parenting we’ve been given a trust and we need to trust the one who has given it to us. We are to be faithful as we put one foot in front of the other in his service. Our terms of working and the harvest at the end of the season is all in his hands. We should plant well, even when planting in tears.

And as intentional parents we do a lot of thinking about how to plant well! We aim to have a harvest mentality (as Paul Tripp calls it) running through the days and weeks and years of our parenting. And this is good! Let’s be faithful (which doesn’t mean always getting it right, never forgetting or messing up or just being tired) with the many resources we have been given. But let’s not try to do and be more in our parenting than faithfully fulfill the role we have been given by God. Let’s remember that there is an awful lot more going on in our children’s hearts and lives than our parenting (no matter how intentional) can ever dream of having covered.

Which leads me to my final pitfall…

imagesPitfall 3: Being intentional is easily mistaken for being in control.

The Pitfalls of Intentionality

Soaring not Striving

I don’t know about you, but I find it so hard to be gentle and patient with myself (let alone the children!) when it comes to parenting.

I know the verdict is grace, but to live in an atmosphere of grace in parenting is a constant effort. Which of course is a sentence that shouldn’t make sense!

Basically the gravitational pull at work in my heart is towards me and therefore away from grace. The more important something is to me, the stronger the pull. The more I have invested in something, deliberated and planned – the more it is about me. It is the pitfall of intentionality.

Sorry – couldn’t resist the Atari reference – but I’m sure the guy ran right to left when I played it!


I am blessed to have a very great friend – The Doctor – who is not only one of my best friends, but also my mental twin and mother to a very similar (albeit 9 years younger than mine) first child.

As we chatted together about parenting she put it perfectly when she said: ” Sometimes I just wish I didn’t think about it all so much.”

And it can seem that those who just muddle along and fly by the seat of their pants come out of the whole thing less scathed and with much the same results as the likes of the Doctor and myself.

Not that winging it would be our comfort zone at all – we like a plan. ‘If in doubt make a list’ is certainly a motto in my household! No, for better or worse we are intentional people and I wouldn’t really want to change that, but intentionality does bring with it its own peculiar temptations and difficulties to strew across the path of my parenting experience and I feel getting those out in the open may be helpful.


Pitfall 1: Being intentional and being self-forgetful / humble is a tricky combination.

Well, it is for me anyway.

I am an intentional person by wiring as well as conviction. Put that together with a tendency towards obsessive behaviour, high sensitivity and anxiety and the likelihood of taking yourself too seriously becomes pretty high.

A plan needs maintenance. All my lists and ideas and grand schemes need careful attention and so, while I myself am not necessarily the main subject, I do spend a lot of time looking in the mirror of my parenting. Once there, it isn’t too big a jump for a sinner to shift the focus of their gaze back on themselves: mirror, mirror on the wall who is the best intentional parent of them all?






Coming soon: 



Pitfall 2: The wisdom of being intentional can mask the foolishness of believing that intentionality guarantees ‘success’.



So I know the answer is grace, but…

Soaring not Striving

The Judge speaks:

Judge: This mother is in Christ. Who accuses her?

The defendant: I accuse myself.

Judge: What do you accuse yourself of?

The defendant: Imperfection my Lord.

Judge: My dear child – I have already heard that case. You have already been declared not guilty in Jesus.

The defendant: But in the matter of my parenting..

Judge: There are no BUTs after grace – only before.

21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.
Romans 3

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved. Ephesians 2

A prayer for rest in humility

Soaring not Striving

Lord help me to remember that I am:

Very loved, but so very little;

Significant but not central;

Precious but not principal;

Intricately involved but not indispensable;

Destined for designer good works but not depended upon;

Saved and not Saviour.

Continuing from themes raised in recent posts and also prompted by the book I am currently reading: Humble Roots by Hannah Anderson

The Verdict

Soaring not Striving

So it has been rather a long and meandering thread – but I think we are getting somewhere!


I started out by asking if I was doing a good job of parenting the three children I currently have in my care.

Our second child was stillborn and we remember his birthday today – he would have been 12 years old.

Various witnesses were called including:

The State, The Professionals and Middle Class Society were the first three to testify. Their verdict was basically:

On the one hand – no intervention is  required, but on the other hand not a contender for the gold star.

What I hear: We’ll keep giving advice, and presenting the ideal, and you can keep feeling guilty about it.

The next witnesses were: The people who write books and give talks on Christian parenting.    

Their verdict was: She sets high standards of intentional parenting, and then struggles to meet them. She tries very hard, but rests in God’s loving, wise providence very badly.



The final witness called was God’s word concerning children and mothers. Please refer to full court transcript for the qualifying comment on this testimony. 

The verdict:

  • What this mother is experiencing is normal. Sinners parenting sinners in a broken sinful world will be hard and imperfect and messy.
  • Despite the broken-ness – families are a God-given entity for the good of individuals and society and are one of the many channels through which he works.
  • Bringing up children is a good deed.
  • God did not make a mistake with any of the four children this mother has given birth to. They were meant for her and she was meant for them.
  • Her job is to do what she can so that her children are not hindered from coming to Jesus.
  • Her job is to celebrate God and his rescue in a question-prompting manner in daily life and in special celebrations.
  • God has not given us the script for celebrating him in conversation with our children – in contrast to some of the festivals in the Old Testament. This mother needs to be careful not to let good ideas and godly aims become “I have to do x or y otherwise I am failing!” or “It will all go wrong if I don’t do this or that” or “She is behaving that way because I didn’t do a or b“.
  • Her godliness and wise choices (or lack thereof) will play a significant role in their lives and the lives of future generations BUT never a role outside of God’s perfect plan.
  • Before she is a mother, this woman is a precious child of God.
  • It is God’s work as their heavenly Father that this woman’s children really need – not her perfect parenting. While she can pray for them she also needs to remember that there is a lot going on that is way above her pay grade!

In Conclusion: The lives of this mother and her children are in God’s hands. The work of mothering these three children is a good work that God has wisely prepared for her under his supervision and sovereignty. He crafted her in just the right way for the job and prepared the job to be just right for her. He knows what he is doing – trust him.


So, yes, when it comes to being a mother I could do better…

BUT everything is O.K. because God always does the best.

No Expectations

Soaring Not Striving


No expectations – if I could grasp that even slightly it would certainly help me soar and not strive and also live and love with a lot more grace.

We saw last time that God sees us as we are.

Imagine the difference in expectations in these two scenarios:

  1. You are having your first appraisal in a new job. A few months ago you were identified as the best in your field; head hunted and wooed by the company you now work for. No expense was spared – your line manager has put his neck on the line by hiring you and is basically relying on you to sort things out and get results fast.


  2. You are a six-year-old sitting in your Dad’s office on a chair that is a little big for you, but it spins! You are doing some stapling and folding and soon it will be time for lunch out with Dad.

The difference in the weight of expectations could not be greater!

I live as though I am in the first scenario – I am not!

We need to believe and trust and remember that God has got it covered – and we need to live that way! He simply doesn’t need to have any expectations of us!  Not only is he not surprised or disappointed by our limitations, but he is totally limitless himself. In the language of the above illustration – God doesn’t need to ‘hire in’ any experts ! His enemy is defeated, his kingdom is just how it should be and everything is on schedule and going according to plan.

As Paul writes to the Ephesian church: he [the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ] made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfilment – to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. Ephesians 1:9-10

I’ve finished cleaning the mirror Mummy. I used lots of soap!

When my children do jobs around the house I do a lot of work!

  1. I identify a suitable task and the time for doing it (and do the ones that are too yucky / tricky myself).
  2. I reach down the cleaning supplies and lay out the right cloth and spray etc.
  3. I brief them and ‘train’ them.
  4. I check what they have done, and either help them where they have ‘missed a bit’ or simply do the high spots they couldn’t reach myself.
  5. I then supervise the tidying up, and sort out the dirty cloths etc.
  6. I then pay them so that they have money to buy birthday and Christmas presents*.

In theory…
This is fine. I am not expecting a perfectly clean mirror – or whatever the job may be. I am not expecting value for money. I’m not even expecting my children to have a brilliant servant attitude and a good work ethic in the way they go about their job. The expectation is on me. I need to be wise in my parenting, I need to use the situation well, and if I want something to actually get clean I need to expect to take responsibility for that myself**.

I say ‘in theory’ because I generally get my expectations muddled. I often do expect those things of them because I am not God. I am just like my children – a small child full of limitations in the care of a perfectly loving Father.

Mums – we are God’s children in Christ Jesus. By his Holy Spirit we call him Abba! Father! God has prepared good works for us Mother’s to do – he has crafted us and prepared the works perfectly – AND not only that but HE has got it all covered.


What does God expect of us as mothers? Nothing. What does he want and plan for us?  To keep relying on him as we put one foot in front of the other walking in the good works he has prepared for us.

OK so that was a long tangent, but I think an important one. Hopefully my next post will see us back in the court room summarising not God’s expectations of us as Mothers, but looking at the good works he has called us to in that role.

* Pocket money and money for jobs is an interesting subject – but that is a whole other post!
** I am not advocating encouraging sloppiness, but merely looking at what disappoints / doesn’t meet expectations.



God gives us more grace

Soaring not Striving

As I ended my last post I rashly promised you a summary of what God expects of mothers. I fully intend to keep my promise – or at least the spirit of it, but as I travelled home I was troubled by the wording I had used. Does God expect anything of us?


A book I read recently claimed that “God has no expectations of us”*.

Seriously? No expectations?

I find that really hard to swallow, and lots of buts bubble up in protest. “But what about… and then there’s…..”  BUT at the same time I can’t deny that it is true.

Firstly: God has no expectations of us in the sense that he knows what weak and fragile beings we are – not only are we mere creatures, but we are broken ones at that. Broken, weak, limited beings in a broken world shot through with evil.

O.K. so that was supposed to be encouraging! Stick with me.

Let me put it this way: It has recently dawned on me that I basically approach my day, my life, my parenting … with the basic assumption that I have all the right ingredients available to me to do a pretty good job. My expectation is of success.

Please don’t get me wrong! This expectation does not spring from thinking that I am special and unique or from any confidence in my particular brilliance. I am thinking more of the expectations that exist simply because in my ‘world’ that is what we are ‘meant to’ be able to do. By ‘world’ I mean the circumstances and environment of my upbringing and the situation and society I now live in. I’ve never really thought about it this way, but each morning I wake up with the subconscious assumption that I should be able to do a good job of my life today, and by extension that those I have to interact with should be able to as well.

And again and again I fail to meet this expectation and so do the people around me.

Not only is there an appalling arrogance in thinking that we can be the gods of our own lives, but there is also an unbearable burden in it.


We delude ourselves that we are thoroughbred race horses, bet heavily on our victory and then scratch our heads when time and time again we fall at the first hurdle.

And the encouragement please?

God does not have this expectation of us. God sees us for the donkeys that we are and loves us!


How I see myself: I am a world renown brain surgeon – I go to work, scrub up and ask for the scalpel ready to save lives…..but more accurately….


Doctor pretend play for kids

In my mind I am sitting at a beautiful shiny grand piano in a crowded concert hall, the audience in breathless anticipation as my fingers hover over the keys ready to strike the first chord….. what my Father delights in…


This is not to belittle human accomplishment and creativity. Of course there are people who really are concert pianists and world renown brain surgeons, as well as super fast athletes and world-class artists. I am not one of them – but they exist all over the world. Of course they do – because there is a God who his creatures fearfully and wonderfully in his image.

It isn’t that we are nothing – not by any means does the bible want us to believe that – it is just that we are what we are. Just think about a toddler for a moment. What an amazing creature – just think of all they learn and how they develop in a matter of months. Astounding! But you don’t expect them to drive a car or cook the tea – let alone perform brain surgery. Compared to God we are small children – and that includes us mothers!

What does God expect of us as mothers? He expects us to be what we are. He expects us to be weak, to get things wrong, to get tired, to get our priorities in a muddle, to lose patience, to feel like giving up, to miss opportunities or to overreact….. and he even expects us to keep forgetting that this is the case!

And secondly God has no expectations of us in the sense that he’s got it all covered. But I think that is for another post.

*Good News for Weary Women by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick

So what exactly does God expect of mothers?

Soaring not Striving

Please forgive the rather long adjournment – not the brief recess you were promised by any means! In my defence I was resting – see last post!

Anyway I’m back now so we can continue with our rather haphazard, whistle-stop tour of what God expects of us mums (and indeed what he doesn’t expect of us) and what we can anticipate family life being like.  


6. God often works through and in families. They are a God-given dynamic within the church and society.  This is not to say that family is the only dynamic. God indeed has no grandchildren and many of his children are ‘not of this flock’; but it is clear from his dealings with Israel (the inheritance of the land, the exhortations to teach the LORD’s commands to their children, to speak of what he has done) as well as the saving of households in the New Testament that he often works through and in families. I can’t claim to understand all the references to this – but they are there e.g. 1 Corinthians 7:14

7. Passing on the good news to future generations can get easily pushed out. Life generally and family life itself can become an idol, and/or a distraction from celebrating the Lord’s goodness and serving him wholeheartedly. In Deuteronomy Moses warns the people of the danger of forgetfullness as they settle into the land and have children and then grandchildren:

“Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.”  Deuteronomy 4:9

8. My primary identity is as a child of God, not as my children’s mother; and as a member of a church my children are not limited to my biological children. In the New Testament many of references to children and family are referring to God’s children and to the church.  It may even be that we are called to ‘leave’ our children for the sake of the gospel: Luke 18:29 

9. It is right and natural for us to be compassionate and kind to our children though we are evil. The love of parents for their children is a common grace, but as sinners it is also something we need to be taught. Psalm 103:13; Luke 11:11-13; Titus 2:4. Broken relationships between parents and children, children rebelling against their parents point to a serious departure from God’s good ways: Malachi 4:6, Romans 1:30

10. Discipline is a right / natural part of parenthood. Proverbs 13:24; Hebrews 12:11

11. Proverbs also exhorts us to be an example to our children and to teach them wisdom – both in the early father and son chapters, and also in specific proverbs:

“The righteous lead blameless lives; blessed are their children after them.” (Proverbs 20:7) Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it. (Proverbs 22:6)

But we need to remember the nature of wisdom literature and not make individual proverbs into golden rules and mathematical equations. They don’t guarantee a certain result from a certain action, but give us a sense of the life lived following God’s good ways.  After all Proverbs 30:11 warns us: “There are those who curse their fathers and do not bless their mothers” !!

12. God knows what it is like to be a parent. He knows both what it is to have rebellious children – us lot; and also what it is to see his Son suffer.

13. We are not to hinder children from coming to Jesus.  Luke 18:15-17

14. We are not responsible for our children’s’ eternal destinies. As Ephesians 2 reminds us:

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

BUT GOD: thanks to his great love and mercy God can bring our children from death to life. That job has been taken – so don’t apply for it!

Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call.’ Acts 2: 38-39 

We have good news and it is there for our children too. Let’s make sure they hear the promise, but it is for the Lord to call them.

And as an aside: God does not love us mothers because we work hard at our parenting. Not only will the quality of our parenting not factor in our children’s standing before God, but neither will it factor in how God views us. While being a Mum is a huge part of the good works God has prepared for me to do – at least for today – how well or badly I think I am doing those works doesn’t change God’s love for me one jot.   

15. A potential pastor’s family does reflect his suitability for ministry. See Paul’s commands to Titus and Timothy.

16. Fathers are commanded to bring up their children in the training and instruction of the Lord and to avoid embittering and exasperating them*. Ephesians 6:2

17. 1 Timothy 5:10 tells us that bringing up children is a good deed!

18. It is appropriate for parents to provide for their children: 2 Corinthians 12:14; and then for children to look after their elderly parents: 1 Timothy 5:4

GettyImages-171116205* I’m wondering if Paul had spent much time with teenage girls – I don’t seem to be able to walk into a room without exasperating my daughter at the moment. Perhaps it is an intentional/thoughtless exasperating we are meant to avoid?


So there we are – far from a complete overview – but I’ll attempt a summation next time! Do let me know of any omissions that need to be included!