By Grace Alone

The real life struggles of a Christian mom

Mediocrity August 21, 2007

Filed under: spiritual growth — Marissa Henley @ 9:14 pm
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I am a nerd, but I love reading the articles in back issues of R.C. Sproul’s Tabletalk magazine. (Click here to subscribe–I highly recommend it.) This week, I’ve been reading one from last September titled “Proud Mediocrity.” In R.C. Sproul’s article, he writes about striving for excellence. He says:

“It is God who calls us to labor to the highest level of excellence and achievement of which we are capable . . . The legitimate motive for excellence is to seek achievement for the end to glorify God. That is the chief purpose for which we are created, to bear witness to His glory. One thing that does not bear witness to the glory of God is a human addiction to mediocrity, a smug satisfaction with the status quo. Rather, the Scriptures call us to seek a high calling–the high calling that is ours in Christ Jesus. Such a high calling cannot be achieved when we wallow in sloth. Slothfulness and laziness are twin vices that are roundly and soundly condemned by sacred Scripture. The biggest reason we fail to achieve excellence is that we are unwilling to work to such an extent that excellence can be achieved. No one achieves excellence in any worthy enterprise without diligent and disciplined labor.”

At the same time that I was reading the article, Michael W. Smith’s song, “Lord, Have Mercy” came on my iPod. (Click here for the lyrics to this song.) It was as if God didn’t want me to miss the fact that He was calling me to repentance for my laziness and slothfulness. I used to be highly motivated to achieve excellence in school and at work–but seldom do I desire excellence in housework, parenting and loving my husband.

How can I do laundry for the glory of God? I’m not sure about the laundry, but I am called to serve my children and husband by striving for excellence in the management of my household. I am to labor diligently in the parenting of my children–playing with them, teaching them, encouraging them and disciplining them. I am called to have a vibrant, growing relationship with my Savior from which to minister to my family and friends. I am not to be satisfied with merely making it through the day with my sanity somewhat intact.

I often settle for mediocrity. I struggle with laziness. Some days, it is excruciatingly difficult to drag myself out of bed to start another day of housework, refereeing fights over toys, and thoughtful, consistent discipline. I crave sleep, comfort, and time for myself, and I hit the snooze button until the last possible minute when I’m forced to start my day. But if I look at the example of the Proverbs 31 woman, she rises while it is still night and her lamp does not go out at night. And Proverbs 20:13 says: “Love not sleep, lest you come to poverty.” I may be going to far, but I think that in my case, my love of sleep that causes my snooze-button addiction is sin. If I’m going to strive for excellence in what God has called me to do tomorrow, I’m going to need that extra seven minutes.


God is right on time. (But I wish He’d hurry up.) August 15, 2007

Filed under: parenting — Marissa Henley @ 2:56 am
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Last Sunday at our church community group, we were talking about how the Jews were expecting the Messiah, but Jesus did not fit with their expectations of a powerful, political figure. In the midst of the discussion, our leader commented that although circumstances around us don’t meet our expectations and often seem out of whack, “God is always right on time.”

It might seem silly, but it got me thinking about the expectations I have for daily life with my kids. Expectations that someday they will obey and share (maybe tomorrow). Expectations that I will be more patient. Expectations that I will suddenly love to cook and clean now that I have a beautiful, newer home. Expectations that Christopher will pee in the potty and not in his pants (this is the big one).

Since the move, we have had some serious potty regression with each new transition–Daddy being gone, Daddy being home, Daddy going back to work. I’ve tried everything, and nothing seems to help. I’m sure that I was the only one at community group the other night applying this great wisdom to potty training. But it occured to me that while I think God needs to fix this problem for me and He’s definitely running late, instead He is right on time.

I suspect that ultimately this has nothing to do with Christopher and everything to do with me learning patience, endurance, and how to show my son I love him as I change his underwear for the fifth time that day. My son’s failure to use the potty appropriately is an expression of God’s love for me and provision for me as He teaches me the lessons I so badly need to learn. This truth helped me make it through three accidents today with a much more joyful heart!


“Don’t Make Me Count to Three!” (continued) August 5, 2007

Filed under: parenting — Marissa Henley @ 3:02 am
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I’ve finished “Don’t Make Me Count to Three!” by Ginger Plowman (see previous post below for the basic premise of the book) and have been trying to apply the principles for about three weeks. I recommend that every Christian mom buy a copy immediately, and just for the record, if you have read the book already and didn’t tell me about it, you are in big trouble! There are many ideas that were meaningful to me, and I should probably make your life easier by splitting them into more than one post. But I want to get this done while they are fresh in my head, so read as far as you can and feel free to come back tomorrow. I won’t know. 🙂 So here it goes . . .

p. 33: “Behavior is simply what alerts you to your child’s need for correction. But don’t make the mistake that so many parents make and allow your desire for changed behavior to replace your desire for a changed heart.” She goes on to quote Tedd Tripp’s words about how changed behavior that does not stem from a changed heart being the same hypocrisy displayed by the Pharisees. The tough part is that going beyond the changed behavior to a changed heart takes so much more time and energy and thought.

P. 40: “Our goal in probing our child’s heart is to bring him to the sober assessment of himself as a sinner, to help him recognize his need for Christ, and to teach him to act, think and be motivated as a Christian. It is not that difficult to train our children to act as Christians. We have really accomplished something when we have trained them to think like Christians. Thinking like a Christian will help them grow in wisdom and prepare them to govern their own behavior in a way that will glorify God.”

She makes the point multiple times that the reason we must train and instruct our children in obedience is so someday they will be ready to submit in obedience to God. It isn’t so people will marvel at my obedient, well-mannered children or to make my life easier because we all get along so nicely. I want their disobedience to point them to their need for a Savior. I want them to grow in wisdom as I speak God’s Word (Scripture) to them. As Ginger Plowman puts it, I want to prepare their hearts for the Savior by praying for them and being a godly example (p. 75).

One section of this book that was especially convicting was one of her guidelines for verbal correction: using the right tone of voice. She quotes Proverbs 15:28: “The heart of the righteous weighs its answers but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil.” Too often I fly off the handle and just start scolding Christopher without stopping to pray and choose my words and tone of voice carefully. Plowman also quotes H. Clay Trumbull’s writings in 1891 about scolding, which he defines as “an expression of a bad spirit and a loss of temper” and “to assail or revile with boisterous speech.” He writes: “If a child has done wrong, a child needs talking to; but no parent ought to talk to a child while that parent is unable to talk in a natural tone of voice, and with carefully measured words. If the parent is tempted to speak rapidly . . . the parent’s first duty is to gain entire self-control . . . Scolding never benefits the one against whom it is directed . . . however, it may give physical relief to the one who indulges in it.” (p. 89-90 in Plowman’s book). All I can say about that is OUCH.

Another great thought from the book is the way she defines the standard of obedience. In their family, they must obey “all the way, right away, and with a happy heart” (p. 117). She talks about expecting complete obedience, immediate obedience, and joyful obedience. To fail in any of these aspects is an act of disobedience. The thought of enforcing this standard is overwhelming and exhausting to me, but I am motivated by knowing that this is how my children should someday obey Jesus. It is my responsibility to not let them become lazy in obeying me so that they will not be lazy in obeying their Lord and Savior.

Finally, I continue to be convicted of my need to know Scripture better and use it more often in the training and instruction of my children. After reading I Corinthians 13 with Christopher and mentioning it often, I praised him one morning for how kind he was being to his brother. He replied, “Yes! Just like we read in Mommy’s Bible!” It was so encouraging to me that he is starting to understand that these are not arbitrary principles given on my own authority. These are principles given to us by our Creator as we submit to His authority. I went through Plowman’s book and made notecards of all the Bible verses she mentioned. The notecards are sorted into two stacks: verses of encouragement or conviction for my kids and verses of encouragement or conviction for me. Here’s the list–and if you don’t have a Bible handy, you can look them up at

For the kids:

I Corinthians 13:4-7 (love)—Galatians 5:22-23 (fruits of the Spirit)—Matthew 5:9 (promoting peace)—Ephesians 6:1 and Colossians 3:20 (obeying your parents)—Philippians 2:14 (complaining)—I Thessalonians 5:16-18 and Psalm 100:2 (having a joyful attitude)— Proverbs 17:5b (not rejoicing at your brother’s sorrow)—Matthew 18:15 (solving conflict with your brother)—Ephesians 4:32 (kindness and forgiveness)—Proverbs 6:16-19 (six things God hates).

For moms:

James 1:2-4 (positive results of enduring trials)—James 1:5 (wisdom)—Proverbs 15:28 (weighing my words)—Hebrews 4:12 (the power of God’s Word)—Colossians 3:13 (forgiving my kids–see post below)— Proverbs 3:5-6 (trusting the Lord)—James 3:17-18 (God’s wisdom)—Ephesians 6:4 (do not provoke your children)—Proverbs 22:15 (the rod of discipline).

And the verse I’m clinging to as I pray for the wisdom and strength to put all of this into practice:

Galatians 6:8-9: For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

I’m not sure when that due season is–it is probably not anytime soon, and may not even be during my time on this earth–but God has promised that we WILL reap what we sow if we do not give up!


Forgiveness August 2, 2007

Filed under: parenting,spiritual growth — Marissa Henley @ 3:40 am
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As I picked up an old issue of R.C. Sproul’s “Tabletalk” magazine last night, I looked at the topic–The Freedom of Forgiveness–and expected a nice reminder of how I’ve been forgiven by God in Christ. I’ve never thought that forgiving others was something I struggled with. I haven’t been sinned against or betrayed in any major way, and I generally live at peace with people close to me. (Or so I thought.)

As I read the words of various authors in the magazine, God brought this thought to my mind: Have I truly forgiven the people living in my home as I should? I realized that I have not forgiven Christopher for exasperating me, disobeying me, and generally making my life difficult by being a stubborn 3-year-old who requires almost constant training and instruction. The familiar verses from Matthew 18:21-22 took on new meaning when seen in this light: “Then Peter came up and said to him, ‘Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.'”

I’ve never thought that there was anyone in my life who would require this kind of extravagant forgiveness. But now that I think about, 70 times 7 sounds just about like the number of times my kids make me want to pull my hair out on any given day. And I realized that the way I respond to Christopher when he disobeys is usually as though it is the 489th time he has disobeyed me, and my frustration and resentment has been building with each infraction.

What would it look like to truly forgive Christopher for each act of obedience? It would mean that my response would be as though it was the first time he had EVER disobeyed. All previous offenses would be completely forgotten. I believe that response would look very different from the one I typically display. The same applies to my marriage–what if I responded to Noel as if it were the first time he had ever let me down or failed to meet my needs? What if I didn’t just roll over all the previous hurt and bitterness and apply it to every new time he offends me?

How can I possibly do this? In Matthew 18, Jesus goes on to tell the parable of the servant who had been forgiven a massive debt, but failed to forgive another person who owed him a much small debt. I can forgive my kids and husband seven times seventy times because I have offended God infinitely more times than that. In fact, I was an enemy of God, and He still loved me, pursued me, redeemed me, and adopted me as His daughter, all because of the blood of His Son shed on the cross for me. This amazing truth frees me to forgive and requires me to forgive.