By Grace Alone

The real life struggles of a Christian mom

Prayer: The Why February 25, 2010

One of the primary areas I’d like to work on in 2010 is prayer.  At the beginning of the year, God brought the issue of my sub-par prayer life to my attention in various ways.  One was the teaching at our church women’s meeting when the speaker asked, “Do you look forward to praying?”  Uh, no.  It’s humbling and disgusting to admit, but many days I look forward to my favorite tv show or a date with my husband more than I look forward to spending significant time in prayer.

In recent years, as I have become more and more dependent on the Holy Spirit as a mother, prayer has become a greater part of my life.  But my prayer life is mostly informal–short prayers for help, wisdom, patience or self-control during the day.  Or praying for others when God brings them to mind.  That informal prayer life is valuable and important.  But when thinking about looking forward to prayer and reading a chapter on prayer in Donna Otto’s book Secrets to Getting More Done in Less Time, I realized that I need to develop a consistent, substantial time for prayer.

Otto writes:  “Fortunately, God is generous, loving, and–most of all–full of grace . . . He does not maintain prayer meters or time clocks . . . But the Lord of our lives deserves homage and our allegiance.  If we are too busy to commune with Him regularly, we are doing a disservice to Him and to ourselves” (p. 237).  She discusses the importance with combining the informal prayer life I’ve described with a formal prayer life:  time set aside for prayer, including adoration, confession, thanksgiving and presenting our requests to God.  This part of my prayer life has been inconsistent at best.

I love how Otto describes this time she spends with God:

Personally, I think of prayer time as a specific opportunity to get down on my knees and subordinate my will to God’s will.  God has a will.  God has a perfect will.  God is sovereign.  And through prayer I try to subordinate my will to His will.  I do that by asking Him to create in me a clean heart, to create in me a sinless heart that is in line with His plan for me and to allow His desires to be my desires (p. 252).

Who wouldn’t want their will to be in line with the will of their good, sovereign Creator?  I know I want that.  But I battle against my sinful nature daily as sleep, worldly desires and my to-do list wage war against setting aside this time with God.  I’ve been talking to other women about prayer and working to improve in this area, so I look forward to sharing more about this topic soon.  In the meantime, I hope you are as convicted and encouraged as I have been to set aside time for prayer.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  I Thessalonians 5:16-18


A Mother of Three May 28, 2009

Filed under: parenting — Marissa Henley @ 2:10 pm
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Wow, it has been a really long time since I’ve posted to this blog!  If anyone out there is still reading, thanks for sticking with me.  For any of you who don’t know me personally, I’m happy to announce that my daughter, Sarah Kate, was born on April 27.  She is healthy, a great sleeper, and very snuggly and sweet.  She has already captured the hearts of her two older brothers.  (Although her arrival may or may not have anything to do with Will deciding he is no longer going to use the potty.)

I have to admit, I was very anxious about Sarah Kate’s first few weeks.  I struggled a lot after my last baby (Will) was born–I was a mess emotionally, spiritually, and relationally.  I was hopeful that things would be different this time around, mostly because when my boys were born, I was not consistently in God’s Word.  Thankfully, by God’s grace, I have a more sure foundation this time around.

Now, one month into this grand adventure of life with three kids, I can see God’s faithfulness to our family in so many ways.  Sarah Kate’s first week was rough from a sleeping perspective . . . she was happy to sleep during the day but not at all interested in sleeping at night.  My husband had taken that first week off, so he was a huge help to me in the middle of the night.  I was terrified to think what would happen when he went back to work and couldn’t be up all night, every night with Sarah Kate and me.  But the night before he went back to work, Sarah Kate figured out that nighttime is for sleeping.  And our nights have been very manageable ever since!  God knows what we can handle, and He won’t give us a smidge more than that.

Not to keep harping on sleep (but we all know it is one of the only things a mother of a newborn can think about), but since that first week, Sarah Kate has been a great sleeper.  And our few difficult nights have usually been followed by a day when someone else is helping me with the boys and I am able to rest.  I have seen God’s hand providing for my need for sleep over and over again.

I’ve found that the most difficult thing for me right now is juggling the needs of the three kids during the day.  My temper is short and patience is lacking.  There have been some really ugly days.  I alternate between moments of overwhelming gratitude and seeing God’s faithfulness, and moments (okay, sometimes hours) of discontentment and longing for life to feel normal.  I’ve been praying for wisdom, self-control and patience this week, and God has been providing.  I know this will continue to be a struggle for me.  I am constantly being called to die to myself and my selfish desires and lay down my life for my kids.  It hurts sometimes, but God provides the strength to do it, and He is glorified by our obedience!


How to be a better mom May 7, 2008

Filed under: parenting,spiritual growth — Marissa Henley @ 12:59 pm
Tags: , , , ,

I don’t know about you, but I am constantly wondering how I could be a better mom. I’ve read a lot of books and talked to a lot of experienced moms, searching for information that might help in my own child-raising struggles. Sometimes I’ll even manage to put a great idea into practice for about a week, and then I fall right back into the same pattern of begging, yelling and bribing in an effort to squeeze some small amount of obedience from my children. I start the day wanting to set a joyful tone for our home, but I find myself become discouraged and irritable, often by 9:00 a.m. (on good days). I feel like I have the pieces of the puzzle, but I can’t keep them together for more than a couple of hours at a time.

On my search for the answer to these dilemmas, I would hear people talk about spending time daily in God’s Word and in prayer. Honestly, I thought it was a little legalistic and regimented. I knew I should be spending more time with God, but it was so hard to set aside the time. (Strangely enough, I have no problem finding the time to play on Facebook and watch American Idol.)

Then came Bible Study Fellowship. I am finishing my first year in BSF, and I can now say that I have discovered the secret to being a better mom. Those “legalists” were right: the answer is spending time with God daily. (Or almost daily, in my case–just being honest!) I still fall short over and over again . . . take this morning, for example, when I was yelling at Christopher about 30 minutes before leaving for BSF. But I find myself less discouraged, less irritable, more joyful, and handling the rough spots in my life much better than I did a year ago. I know the reason for this is that God has been convicting me of my sin and teaching me about His character and truth through my study of His Word. I look forward to becoming even more wise, self-controlled and joyful in my parenting as He teaches me more.

At this point, you might be thinking, “This BSF has a parenting class?” That’s the crazy part about it. I’ve been studying the Gospel of Matthew this year. From the book of Matthew, I’ve learned huge lessons about materialism, obedience, forgiveness, relying on God’s strength, worship, contentment, being a better wife and mom, and so much more. God’s Word is always effective–when it goes out, it never returns void–so no matter what you are studying in God’s Word, He knows what you need and He will teach you through His Truth. It shouldn’t have taken me this long to figure out: Christ tells us in John 15:4-5 that we need to abide in Him. Jesus said that He is the Vine, we are the branches, and we cannot bear fruit apart from Him. It is only by being connected to the Vine that we can accomplish what He has called us to do.

So if you want to be a better mom (or wife, or daughter, or friend), let me encourage you to plug yourself into the only Vine that can provide what you need. If you do not have a Bible study that challenges you to daily study God’s Word and apply it to your life, check to see if there is a BSF group in your area. You can search for BSF classes near you by going to It is very likely that your local BSF will be having an intro class during the week of May 12, when you could hear more about BSF and register to be in the class in the fall. If you are reading this after the week of May 12, you can attend intro classes in September and not be too far behind. Two things I love about BSF are the weekly lessons that hold me accountable to be in God’s Word throughout the week and the children’s program for children ages 2 and up. It is not just child care–the children study the same passage as we do, and the program is fabulous.

I’m amazed as I look back at my blog entries since September–almost all of them have been influence in some way by my BSF studies. If you are like me, struggling to keep the puzzle pieces together, please take the time to find a Bible study that will keep you daily connected to the Vine. If you would like more information about BSF, leave me a comment and I will get in touch with you.


More on “Calm My Anxious Heart” March 2, 2008

Filed under: spiritual growth — Marissa Henley @ 11:11 am
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I’ve been reading more of Linda Dillow’s book and really liked her chapters on being content with my role and with my relationships. It is so easy to always be looking ahead to a point in time when I think my life will be easier or better–when all my kids are dressing themselves and taking care of their own potty-related needs, when Noel cuts back on his hours, when I start to really love working out and hate eating sweets (yeah, right!). Before I was married, I wanted to be married. When I didn’t have kids, I wanted a baby. And now that I have preschoolers, I want them to go to school (and on my more insane days, I want another baby). I have a tendency to think that surely having a 2-year-old and 4-year-old is about as tough as it gets, and when they get a little older, then I will be able to pull myself together and be the kind of wife, mom, friend and Christian I want to be.

I started to realize the truth of my need to be content with what my role is right now when I had a single girlfriend over for lunch a few weeks ago. I was feeling jealous of her life–her nice clothes and car (the kind that doesn’t seat 8), her important job that brings her into contact with actual adults every single day, all the freedom that she has to do what she wants when she wants. It was the week before Will’s birthday party, and on my kitchen counter was a to-do list full of things, most of which I was dreading. Mop floors, clean bathrooms, dust living room, make treat bags, bake and decorate cake, etc. My friend looked at my to-do list and exclaimed, “I wish I had this to-do list!” I was shocked, but I shouldn’t be. It is so easy to take what we have for granted, to get weighed down by the mundane tasks — to lose sight of what a privilege it is to clean up after these little treasures God has given me and plan their birthday parties and teach them about Jesus.

In a discussion of maturity, Dillow writes: “We grow up when we see our life and our role from God’s perspective . . . when each morning we ask, ‘God, how can I glorify you today in my given role?'” She writes about Christ as an example. His role was to humble Himself, serve others, and give His life as a ransom for many. (See Mark 10:45 and Philippians 2:5-8) My role is to glorify God by serving my husband, my children, and others around me. My role is to mop floors, fix peanut butter sandwiches, change diapers and read books. My role is to train, discipline and teach my sons to love God and each other. My role is to pray for my children and about the decisions we make that impact their lives. I want to be a real grown-up and glorify God in the role He has given me today rather than waiting for Him to give me a more glamorous job.

In Dillow’s chapter on contentment in relationships, she focuses quite a bit on forgiveness. This is a fairly new topic for me, one that I’ve been thinking about more in the last year and realizing that it is something that I struggle with. (See previous post on forgiveness.) This is also a topic that came up in last week’s BSF lesson. I know God is trying to get my attention when He’s teaching me the same thing through two different avenues!

My BSF lesson and part of Dillow’s chapter on relationships examined Matthew 18:21-35, the parable of the unforgiving servant. In this parable, the king forgives his servant’s massive debt (roughly $15 million in today’s terms) and then the servant goes out and refuses to forgive another’s minuscule debt against him. Likewise, in Christ, we have been forgiven for a debt that we could never pay: the penalty for our sin. If we fail to see our need for the Cross, we will view other’s sin against us as great and difficult to forgive. If we have a proper view of our sin and how much we have been forgiven, it will be a natural reaction to forgive the much smaller offenses that others commit against us.

Studying this passage made me realize that if I’m keeping a mental list of the ways my husband has let me down or harboring resentment toward someone who has offended me, it should be a red flag for me that I need to turn my attention back to the seriousness of my own sin against God and grace I have been shown by His forgiveness. When those thoughts of “I’ve been wronged” start to trickle in, I need to consciously turn my thoughts to the Cross. This could really transform some of my relationships where I continue to hold on to past hurts and disappointments.