September sunrises awaken with refreshingly cool air. Autumn sunsets showcase glory just past suppertime. And fall marketing campaigns for new TV shows and movies tell us the world is about to end as aliens invade, warming seas submerge our shores, and life as we know it will surely be altered forever.
Let’s talk about that fear.
Most of you are women who have believed in Jesus for salvation and have therefore acknowledged the Bible, His words to us, as true. This then is God’s answer to all the fear being pumped into us by many with megaphones in media, science, and governments.
“While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night, shall not cease” said the Lord God (Genesis 8:29). The regular rhythm of seasons, the annual cycles of weather, planting, harvesting, and dormancy will remain constant. He promised.
So grab a pumpkin-spiced something as we look at God’s design for seasons in our lives as women.
A week ago I had coffee with a dear friend. Nothing pumpkin was yet available so we sweetened our coffee with mocha and the chemistry of our always instant connection. She’s a mid-30s mom of one, hoping for baby deux soon, and bursting with questions about parenting, marriage, and career. We feed each other’s souls. She gives me affirmation that I have a few things to say of value, and I give her affirmation that she’s not ruining her child! We also revisited the topic of finding value in the thankless, mundane, unseen season of motherhood.
I’ve spent many hours musing on this idea of seasons in a woman’s life, especially in recent months as I’ve observed women who are married with kids at home give so much time to their own ministries, blogs, conference speaking, book writing, seminar leading and careers. Some seem to be ok; others are not. I worry about them all.
Pondering all this I’ve wondered, What do we women have in common? What did I miss in my generation? What are they missing today? What is different about my friend’s, my daughter’s, generation? I have some observations.
I also have some wisdom. I know their stories are not yet to the halfway mark while mine is nearing the later chapters. There will be an ending to both. Will it be a happy one?
I know I don’t have the answers. But I do know Someone who does. He knows all questions before we ask and He has answers for each one of us.
He even knows about YOLO (you only live one life). I think the Bible speaks about it. This acronym is true and has been true since the Garden. And it’s adding fuel to another fear, FOMO (fear of missing out). I sense mild panic in the millennial generation.
For women who make a claim to godliness (I Timothy 2:10), and you have made that claim if you have been bought with a price (I Corinthians 6:20), if you have been chosen and adopted by God (Ephesians 1:4), if you have a seat at His table (Ephesians 2:6), you are above all else His daughter. He is your Master, your Lord. His plan for your life is the one to discover and follow. Not your own or what everyone else is doing.
Importantly for this conversation is the truth that God deals with us as unique individuals. Though His redemption plan is for millions, He sees us as a Father sees His children, each one of a kind. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works which He prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). Every woman is created uniquely with a one of a kind blend of gifts, talents, needs, and callings. God’s stated desire is for us to use what He has given in the works He has planned. He is Lord. We are not.
As Carrie and I sipped our needed afternoon fuel boost, I told her I think her generation has harder choices than mine. Here’s why.
Most Christian women who could afford financially to stay home full time with their kids did so in the 70s, 80s, and 90s. There was comfort in knowing we weren’t alone, even if we never saw each other. The culture, however, was shifting. The pressure to have a full-time job, a career, and to become equal with men in the world of work was swiftly gaining momentum. We all felt it. Today, I told Carrie, the change is here to stay.
I had no desire to have a career in the workplace. I did want to change the world. And I did desire to develop my tiny talent as an artist. You can read my personal story here, but the most important facts are these:
- My life belonged then and now to Jesus Christ. All of my life, including my God-given gifts, abilities, talents and my limitations and weaknesses were given to me to steward and subject to His intended purposes and plans. When I surrendered all, I surrendered all.
- My calling as a wife and mother were also His gifts to me. It was and is now His will that I steward these my people and these relationships. They are His.
- I believed then and now in His sovereign rule of the world and my little tiny life. It is His business to rule my life. It is mine to obey and follow. He makes eyes to see or be blind, ears to hear or be deaf (Exodus 4:11). The question I asked as I wrestled with my talents that seemed to be latent, unused, and dying was the same question asked of Jesus about the man born blind (John:1-12). Why would God give Him eyes but no sight? Why would God give me creativity, a desire to paint, but no expression? The answer for the blind man, for me and for all of us is the same. His intentions and purposes, though they make no sense to us at times, is that we might see the glory of God.
- I also believed then and now in the long view of life. I believed in seasons. Farmers have seasons of drought, of crops ruined by summer hailstorms, and they welcome other seasons of plenty and abundance. My years of bearing and raising children were a season. It would not last forever. I knew that. Believed that.
- Trusting God is not easy for me. I want to know the outcome. I want to know the whys. I want to see and understand what God is doing. Do you too? But His wise and loving way is for us to trust Him, to walk by faith. Therefore when I decided to put away my paints, to set aside my artwork and the development of my talents, I chose to believe by faith that He knew best. I literally said to Him, “It is Your business what you want with my life. If You choose to give me talents and then choose not to use them, that’s Your call and I will trust You.”
- When I set aside my painting, I did not quit being creative. I did not kill my desire to create any more than a person who is blind has surgery to remove his eyes. I continued to create but in ways that worked with God’s clear leading for me to invest first at home.
It seemed for so many years that the future would never come. I was swimming in children and their endless always-changing needs, along with marriage and husband needs, that I feared there would be nothing left of me when the last one left home. But just as surely as seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, so my season of mommying began to change.
What’s so beautiful about God’s seasonal timing is that He not only gave me back my painting, as I started lessons while my youngest were in high school, but He also opened a door for writing, creating a product line, and more than I ever imagined in my 20s and 30s. Decades of parenting had matured me. Silently I had acquired wisdom. In those unseen hours and days of mundane toil and work, peppered with failures and begging prayers, God was quietly, steadily building endurance (James 1:3) and faith (Hebrews 11:1) and the knowledge of Him (Ephesians 1:17).
And best of all, I have zero regrets that I’m leaving my children too often, missing ballgames because I’m off speaking to a group of women, or struggling in my marriage because my ministry is demanding more and more of my time. However, I still pay attention to my marriage today. I choose to keep my husband and our relationship a priority so we grow and thrive together. Even after 45 years there is no autopilot.
I said earlier that I have a few observations. Not answers, remember?
1. If Jesus doesn’t return soon, or He calls you home, there will be other seasons in the future beyond the intensity of parenting for you to fully develop your gifts and talents for His purposes.
2. God’s Word makes it clear: some relationships are more important than others. We call those priorities and they are: relationship with God, with spouse, and with children. Growing each of these takes LOTS of time. They cannot be fast tracked any more than growing acres of corn or wheat. Remember this promise: “In due season we will reap if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).
3. Every woman’s purpose, circumstances and relationships are unique and one of a kind. I have two daughters and a daughter-in-law with seven, five, and four children respectively. All are homeschooling this year and weren’t last year. All are financially able to stay home to invest in their children. I have another daughter who has two children, both in elementary, who is teaching full-time because she loves it and they need the extra income to save to buy a house some day. Another daughter works full-time but doesn’t yet have children (she’s in a different season). And my other daughter-in-law, with four children, has gone back to work part time now that their youngest just started kindergarten, both for extra income and to keep her dental hygienist skills sharp.
I have many other friends also in this season of life, who are working in ministries or jobs that fit with their family’s stages and needs, including Carrie, a free-lance designer, who is often hired for small design projects she can do from home. Other young women I know are at home full time with various combinations of schooling and ministry obligations. Rest in what God has for you. Don’t compare. Follow God’s will for you.
4. Ministry can become a mistress. This used to be true just for men but it is now equally true for women. From leading one’s own ministry to women, to being the women’s or children’s ministry director at your church, the struggle of balancing the needs of others with the needs of your own family and marriage is a very real challenge. Just as men have lost their marriages because they gave their lives to ministry so women are now experiencing the same.
5. It is impossible to do it all. Even though we have more conveniences than ever we also have multitudes of choices that eat time and energy and detract from what matters most: your three most important relationships … God, spouse and children.
6. You can pay for the cleaning of your house, the cooking of your food, even the doing of all your laundry, your gardening and yard work, if you can afford it. But you can’t pay someone or delegate the work of marriage or parenting to others. God has made it abundantly clear in His word that it is our work, our stewardship to which we are called. We are His ambassadors, His runners in the relay race of the Gospel. Your team is your family. Run that race well now.
Ecclesiastes 3 declares, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” Have you surrendered to God’s timing, His work for you in this season of your life? Are you trying to do it all?
A saint now residing in heaven once said, “In all Christians, Christ is present. In many Christians, Christ is prominent. In a few Christians, Christ is pre-eminent.”
Which are you?