To the Weary Momma

*This was written to one of my dear friends. I was going to write this just to her, but the truths are needed for most parents who are in the trenches, so I made some details more generic for the sake of the blog and sharing with all of you.

My sweet, weary friend,

You opened up yesterday about how you’ve been feeling like you’re failing as a wife, failing as a mother, and failing as a friend since your family changed a few months ago. I woke up this morning feeling the weight of your words, crying out to Jesus for you, and I hope to build you up with this letter.

Love feels like failure. Real love isn’t the yummy feelings we have toward our husbands, though that can certainly be a side effect. Real love gives up the things we once loved for the sake of others. We work our whole lives toward something we dreamed would bring us joy. It might be a brochure-worthy family who is peaceful, happy, and together. It might be a job. It might be a creative endeavor. It might be a financial status. It might be respect from others. Then an opportunity to love comes along, and the only way to do it well is to give up our dreams. It feels like a part of us has to die, and the grief is fierce.

It must have felt that way 2,000 years ago, too. Jesus wanted to be with his Daddy. But for the sake of love for his father and his people, he became the biggest failure ever in the eyes of those around him. That fool died for the ones who hated him. He had a good thing going for him, too, with fame and followers. And he gave it all up for love. All the people watching laughed or shook their heads in disappointment or mocked him. They thought he’d actually be something in this life, but instead he died the most humiliating death of all, just a nobody.

But that was only the earthly perspective. In heaven there was a much different scene taking place. They knew what that death meant. They knew it meant victory, not failure. And there was a party as the serpent got his head crushed. His “failure” was the very thing that exalted him to the highest place, and it made failure impossible for you.

You have a picture in your head of love. It’s been shaped by society, articles, magazines, things your friends say. Probably even things I say. But our definition of love is so small. God wants much more for us.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil 2:5-11)

I watch you almost every day, and you’re my hero. I see how hard everything is, and I see you continue to fight the fight. I see you take time out for every kid and adult around you, often overwhelmed but always dropping what you’re doing for their sake, especially when you don’t feel like it. I see you pour into your family, doing the mundane day after day. I hear the hours of conversations you have about your children, trying to make the most faithful decisions for them. I see how passionate you are for justice for your friends, and how you can’t just sit and do nothing. I see how weary you are. And it’s pretty much the best view I have.

The most beautiful sunset doesn’t even compare.

But you don’t see yourself that way. You focus on the details that show you in the worst light while the deceiver whispers in your ear, distorting and inflating those details. You’re tempted to see the moments instead of the full picture. You get weighed down with how hard everything is, and you see all that as failure.

You forget that when you sin, when you get selfish, when you choose the wrong thing, when everything comes crashing down, that’s exactly where God meets you. He wants you where you can’t rely on your own strength. He wants you to be reminded you can’t fail, not because you’ve been a good wife, mom, and friend, but because of the One who lives in you. You’re now a success no matter what because he himself is your new identity, and his earthly “failures” are eternal glory.

Even as you read this, I’m sure you’re still not seeing yourself rightly. None of us ever do. We’re at war with the spiritual forces of evil, and it’s hard to block all his flaming arrows. As we stand side by side in this battle, this letter is my attempt to help pick you up to get you safely behind your shield again, as you have done for me countless times. Praise God we don’t fight this battle alone!

Your sacrifice here on this earth, your mundane tasks, the decisions you have to constantly make, the dreams you’ve given up–they all point me, your children, your husband, your friends, your neighbors, your church, the people at the grocery store, to the Savior. It feels so small, so insignificant, so pointless. But it shines God’s glory far brighter than any humanly thing we could do. It makes you the most successful wife, mom, and friend in the world. A success based on your weakness but his strength. And your kids get front row tickets to it every day. How blessed they are!!!

I long for the final day with you. You’ll enter the presence of Jesus to hear him say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” And you’ll hear cheering from the rest of us as we agree and laugh in joy. And your family will be in the front cheering loudest of all.

Come, weary saints, though tired and weak
Your strength will return by His quiet streams

Come, wandering souls, and find your home
He offers the rest that you yearn to know

Come, guilty ones weighed down with sin
The freedom you long for is found in Him

Come, hopeless hearts, do not despair

For ten thousand joys await you there

Hear Him calling your name
See the depths of His love
In the wounds of His grace
Hide away in the love of Jesus


Why We Play Family Games Together

I really thought in writing this post, I’d go through a theology of laughter and joy, showing how God gave us humor and enjoyment as a foretaste of the glorious enjoyment we’ll possess forever in eternity. Then I’d turn that theology toward our proclivity to play as the reasoning for why we play games together as a family.

But we really just play games because it’s fun. And we really like to have fun. I can work my way backwards into it, retconning a relatively convincing answer. But the truth is that we have shelves of games and kids who love games because…we think it’s really fun.

So there’s that.

BUT…I have found that there are a great number of “side effects” that come from playing games, many of which is highly helpful as parents and disciplers of our kids. Aside from the more obvious parts of games like learning strategy or good teamwork (which truly are great skills to learn), there are some less tangible benefits that we get from playing games. Here are some of them:

It’s a great tool for encouragement. Games are places to see players do both some pretty awesome stuff and some pretty awful stuff (think Pictionary here, people). Every time someone does something cool or impressive—whether teammate or competitor—it’s a great opportunity to verbally encourage. And every time someone bombs or does something dumb, it’s a great chance to build them up and help them not get discouraged.

It’s a great tool to teach a Law that stands outside any of us. Despite our fluffy age of “following your heart”, games don’t allow for that. There are rules. Everyone has to follow them. It’s just a thing. Unless you’re one of those weird families that just make up your own “house rules” to everything (i.e. you just stink at following rules), the rules are an outside authority we are bound to obey in order to play the game. And it’s highly instructive to see which ones of my kids feel the need to buck against those rules (the prodigal rebels) and which ones are Nazis about following the rules (the legalists).

We get to help the sore loser. Sore losers abound in our family. I have a great many who resort to anger and/or pouting when they don’t win or things just don’t go the way they’d hoped. Losing is a means of embracing humility and rejoicing with those who rejoice. Besides, there are plenty of times in life when others around us will feel like they have “winning” lives while ours feel like loser lives. Sore losers come out in a number of ways.

We get to help the jerk winner. As much as I have sore losers, I also have punk winners. You know what I’m talking about: they brag and gloat and self-congratulate. This is an opportunity to remind the winners to mourn with those who mourn, seeing the sadness of losing in their brothers and sisters—and having compassion for them. Furthermore, it’s an opportunity to learn humility in the face of success—especially since in all games, there is some element of chance (the right roll of the dice, the right card drawn, an opponent’s mistake) that led to victory. Thus, a win is never truly “I did this!”

In disputes, we get to put to practice following Jesus in loving others more than ourselves. This is a biggie. It’s really easy in games to always work an angle, trying to get things our way or bend the rules our way or simple shout out in rage, “That’s not fair!!” But in playing games, there is always room to put others first and be willing to be defrauded for the sake of the gospel. So, in a moment of dispute like two players shouting the answer at the same time, having the grace and love to offer the point to the other player simply because the first will be last and the last will be first.

It’s a chance to fail in front of others, but it doesn’t matter. A loss hurts. There are frequently tears shed during or at the end of a game. Whether that’s because of poor performance or just poor “luck”, it hurts to lose. This is different from the sore loser, because this isn’t pouting but just plain old sadness because losing sucks. But in this, we get to find a place to lose that has no moral, physical, or financial effect. One of the coolest things about a game is that you can lose and then immediately say, “Let’s play again!” Losing in real life is so much harder, but the skill to mentally say “Let’s play again!” after a loss is so valuable.

It’s a chance to remind everyone that in order for there to be a winner, there has to be a lot of losers. When I’ve interviewed for jobs in the past, it has struck me that if ten of us applied for a single position, only one of us will get it and the other nine will be left with disappointment. Playing the odds, that means most of us spend our time as losers, not winners. And that’s true all over the place. Despite the inner desire we all have to always be winners, the fact is that we’re usually not. This is simply a fact of all games, but also a fact of life, too—one that I’m still trying to learn.

They get to see Mom and Dad mess up, too. Maybe I’m the only one here, but games sometimes bring out the worst in me, too. Sometimes I’m petty or will find a way to play the system or I’ll be grumpy when my time is getting stomped. In games, the kids get to see me in a tense and stressful situation—and they get to see me screw it up, too. So hopefully they also get to see me repent, confessing my sins freely. And on that note…

Games afford MANY opportunities to ask for and grant forgiveness. Games are like a cesspool for sinning against each other—yelling, cheating, pouting, accusing, taunting, insulting, mocking, etc., etc., etc. There are TONS of opportunities in games to ask forgiveness and confess sins for the stupid, sinful things we do. And that also means that there is lots of room for extending forgiveness and finding reconciliation, too.

We get to remember that it’s just a game. While I’ve just offered all of these real-life ways that games can help us disciple and train our kids, the fact is that they’re just games. And there are moments where trying to get that win becomes more important than anything else—more important than loving one another, more important than doing what’s right, more important than serving King Jesus. In those moments, we get to offer perspective and remind our kids that it really is just a game and doesn’t really matter worth anything. And the ability to see something inconsequential become our idol-of-the-moment—and then just be able to say, “It’s just a ____” is something I still wish I could learn to do.

These are a just a few of the side benefits that I’ve seen come out as we play games together as a family. What about you? How have you been able to train or disciple your kids through games?