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Seasons of Motherhood

From the series Seasons of Motherhood

Theresa Ingram (Chip's wife) gives us a beautiful reminder of how God uses all seasons of our lives to draw us closer to Him and to our family. Theresa shares great memories of her personal journey as a mother.

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Message Transcript

I want to share with you today just the seasons that I went through, as a mom.  And all of us, as moms, are on a little bit different journeys, but we all can relate, to some degree, to all of these seasons.

The first season that I went through was the season of beginnings.  I was not a Christian when I first became a mom.  And I was in a marriage, at the time, that was not working well; it was very unstable.  And it was in the midst of this troubled marriage that my first child was born.

I went to the hospital, and I was expecting one baby, and I came home with two!  I had twins!  And the doctor didn’t even know that I was having twins, and so, it was just a total shock.

By the time my little boys were nine months old, my husband had gotten involved with another woman, at his job, and soon, he packed up his bags, and he moved out.  He left me with these two little boys, and went off, and left us with no support.  It was just a heart-breaking time for me.  It was a time that I never dreamed that I would ever experience, and something that I never wanted to be.

But I found myself as a single mom, taking care of two little boys, going to work, and trying to provide the needs of two little boys on my own.  It was a time that I cried a lot.  I was just so exhausted.  I was lonely.  I was worried about how I was going to pay the bills, and take care of these little boys.

But God did something wonderful for me.  He reached into my broken world.  He revealed Himself to me in my brokenness.  And my life began to change.  And so, this is another new beginning.  I became a mom, and I became a child of God.

And it was during this time that God allowed me to be with a group – a very tiny group – of women in the basement of a Free Methodist church, and I learned how to pray.  And He showed me that I could run to Him every day, that I could spend time with Him in prayer, in just simple words, ask Him for what I needed, and He would answer.  And He showed me that He would be sufficient to meet every need that I had, just when I needed it, and that He wanted to be the Father to my fatherless children, that He would make up the slack in whatever I couldn’t give them.  And He showed me that He would be my companion when I was feeling very lonely, and I needed someone by my side, that He would be there.

And one of the most special answers to prayer that I had during that time, in praying for companionship, was, one evening I put my little boys in bed, and I went in the living room.  And I was so sad, and so lonely this evening, and I just wanted to be with someone.  And so, I just cried out to the Lord, and I said, “Lord, I am so lonely.  Would You just bring someone to visit me?”

And not long after I had prayed that prayer, there was a knock on my door, and I couldn’t believe it!  And the first thing that came to my mind was, Oh, this is going to be my knight in shining armor, that tall, dark, handsome knight in shining armor that’s coming to rescue me.  And he’s going to sweep me off my feet, and love me, and take care of my kids, and – this was going to be God’s provision for my life.

But when I opened the door, there was no knight in shining armor.  But it was Edith.  It was my next-door neighbor.  She was an older lady, and she was very short, and she was overweight, and she was divorced.  She was living alone, and she wasn’t anything at all like what I expected God to bring to my door.

But she became one of the greatest blessings of my life.  Edith became my closest friend.  And she lived next door, so we could spend lots of time together.  And she was the greatest encouragement in my life during that time, and she was just what I needed.

And God says, in John 15:7, that if we will be in His Word, and if we will walk with Him, that He will answer our prayers in amazing ways.  And that’s a promise.  It’s a promise from His Word that He wants to answer our prayers when we cry out to Him.

Season number two I call “My Quiver Is Full with Full-Time Mothering.”  Later on, I met Chip, and we were married, and he adopted my two little boys, and then we had two other children.  And during this season of my life, I just felt like my quiver was full, and I just loved it.  I enjoyed every moment of being a mom.

And neither Chip nor I had grown up in Christian homes – in fact, both of our dads were alcoholics as we grew up – and we both became Christians when we were adults.  So, we didn’t know what a Christian home looked like.  We didn’t know how to be a Christian mom and dad.

And so, we made a lot of mistakes during those years, and we didn’t always agree on how to handle our parenting, and how to discipline the children.  And so, sometimes we had conflict about that, and really had to work through those issues.

But I did learn that God wanted to be my number one Teacher, as to how to be a mom, and He wanted His Word, the Bible, to be my number one handbook in how to be a mom.  And He was using many different things to teach me during that time.  He brought women into my life, and I learned from them how to be a godly mom, and I read lots of books on parenting, and He was teaching me just through life experiences.  And lots of those life experiences were just mistakes that I made, or we made as a couple, and I learned through those.  I learned how to handle it God’s way.

And I realized that the only way that I could hear God speak to me, the only way that I could know His truth, was to be in His Word on a daily basis.  And so, even when my children were babies, a priority of my life was to spend time with God in His Word, nearly every day.  Now, I realize, some days you can’t, but nearly every day that was what I tried to do, was to spend time in God’s Word.

And it’s hard when you have little ones in your home, when you’re a young mom, and there are babies crying, and children running all over the place, and lots of things to do.  But I would get up early.  I would sometimes have time in the Word when they were having their naps.  Sometimes it was when toys were all over the floor, and the house was a mess, and they were occupied playing that I could open up God’s Word, and I could read, and I could pray.

And sometimes it was only for five or ten minutes, but that doesn’t matter.  That doesn’t matter to God.  It’s the relationship that counts.  He knew my heart.  He understands young moms.  He understands the pressures that we have, and all the things we need to do.

Because of that – because I didn’t care where it was, or what we were doing when I spent time with the Lord – they saw me be in His Word, and they saw me pray, and they heard me pray for them.  And so, I think it became evident to our children that God was the center of our home, that He was the center of our parenting, and our home life, and that’s Who we were living for.

My foundation verse during this time was Deuteronomy 6:5-7, and it says, “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your mind, and with all your soul, and with all your strength.”  And He goes on to say, “And these words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart, and you shall teach them diligently to your children.”  God says to moms that we need to teach our children; we need to make an effort to teach our children His Word, to spend time with them.

And it goes on to say, “And you shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up.”  And He’s talking about a lifestyle here, that it’s just who we are – that we are followers of Jesus, that we are moms that love the Lord.  And it just comes out in who we are.  And as we walk and follow after Jesus, our children will see God’s truth in us.

And I think the greatest tool that we have, as mothers, is our own life.  The greatest tool in teaching our children . . .  And as we love the Lord, and as we’re obedient to His Word, and as we love our children, and we teach them His Word, we model Christlikeness to them, in just the most powerful way.

And so, mothers, we need to remember that our children are watching us, all the time, in how we handle life.  And if we want them to live the way we live, then we need to follow Jesus, and live the way He lived.

Well, season three I call, “Giving Them Wings.”  And moms, we’ve spent 18-plus years nurturing our children, protecting them, teaching them, helping them to prepare for adulthood.  And then, it comes that day when it’s time for them to spread their wings, and to get out on their own; it’s time for them to graduate from high school, and go off to college, or go off to a job.  And they’re excited.  But sometimes, me, us moms – we’re not quite ready for this to happen.  Our hearts aren’t quite prepared for it.

And three of my four children went a long ways to college – two of them clear across the country.  And each time one of them left my nest, the security of my nest, I just grieved so much over that loss that I felt.  And I was so sad for a long time.

And I knew it was God’s plan that they leave; it was God’s plan that they spread their wings – and I wouldn’t have it any other way – but my heart ached so much every time that happened.

Well, then the Lord taught me something really wonderful, and it’s brought such comfort to my life.  One time I took one of my sons – we flew him from California to Chicago to go to school, got him all set up.  We flew back home, and I was just so sad.  And the next morning I got up – and I always have my quiet time in the morning – and I opened up my Bible.  And I just remember, so clearly, that day: I was sitting on the floor, and the sun was coming in, and I just opened up the Word, and I was reading in John 19.

And this is the passage where Jesus is hanging on the cross.  He’s being crucified.  And it’s at the most amazing time of His life, because all the sin and the weight of the world are on Him.  And He’s in extreme pain.

And as He was hanging on the cross, He did something that I thought was amazing.  He looked, and He saw His mother.  And this is what He said in John 19:25, “Standing near the cross was Jesus’ mother.  When Jesus saw His mother standing there beside the disciple that He loved” – and that was John – “He said to her, ‘Dear woman, this is your son” – talking to John.  “And then He said to His disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’  And from then on, the disciple” – John – “took Jesus’ mother into his home.”

And I was just so amazed at how Jesus cared for His mom, even at this time.  This is what He came to the earth to do, and at this most amazing time of His life, He cared about His mom.  And He made sure that she was taken care of.

And I thought, Jesus cares for mothers!  He cares about how we feel.  He cares about our griefs.  He cares about the losses that we experience.  He has a plan for our children and their future, but He also has a plan for me, and for us, as moms.

And my life wasn’t over.  Sometimes I felt like it was over; but my life wasn’t over when the children left the home.  And now it’s time for them to go out into the world, and to spread their wings, and put all that I have taught them into action.  And it’s such an amazing time for us, to be able to watch our children go out there, and learn to trust God on their own.

And it was during this season that the Lord taught me to surrender my children to Him every day, because I couldn’t be there.

I couldn’t be there to make sure they were doing okay, and I couldn’t be there to make sure they were safe, and that they had everything they needed.  So, I had to entrust them, to give them over to the Lord, the only One who could keep them safe, the only One who knew their hearts, and could provide what they needed.

And what I could do for them now, the best thing that I could do, would be to pray for them, and to bring that power of God, that heaven on earth into their lives, every day, every single day, and that God would help them, and provide for them.  And so, I prayed.  And I prayed about everything.

Season number four is where I’m at right now, and I call it “Adult Children,” or “The Empty Nest.”  I think this is the true empty nest, but I realize that being a mom never changes.  I mean, I’m still a mom.  I’ll always be a mom.  And God is still the same to me, as He was when they were little.  He’s still sufficient to meet all of my needs.  And He’s still teaching me, and He’s still leading me.  He still has work for me to do.

A few years ago, I was thinking and praying about, Well, what does it look like, now that my children are grown, and they have their own families, and . . .  What does it really look like to be a mom, a Christian mom, to grown children?

And as I was praying, I was asking the Lord this, and He gave me some guidelines to go by that I wrote down on a card that morning.  And they’re really simple, but I think God speaks to us in simple ways that we can understand.  And I would like to share those with you today.  And these are my guidelines from the Lord.

1)  You probably could guess this, but God says for us to pray for our children, to pray for them every day.  And I pray for them to grow in their relationship with the Lord, to know how much He loves them and cares for them.  And I pray that they would experience His power in their lives.  And I pray that they would be fruit-bearing vines in His Kingdom, that they would make a difference for God.

2)  To encourage them spiritually, as God would give me opportunity.  And it may be through a word that I speak, it may be through a card that I put in the mail, it may be through a book that I give them, it may be through my own life, or if they ask for counsel, and I can give them counsel from the Word – but to point them to Jesus, as much as I can, to point them to Jesus.

3)  To be a good role model, to live a Christlike life that they would want to imitate.  And that goes on until the day we die, that we need to model Christlikeness to our children.

4)  To have fun with them, as God allows us to do that.

5)  To communicate deeply and meaningfully with our children.  Sometimes it’s easy just to talk about “surfacey” things: about the weather, or about sports, or how often the babies are feeding – and it’s easy to talk about those things.  But we need to go deeper with our children, and to communicate meaningfully to them, and ask them how they’re doing, ask them what God is teaching them, ask them where they’re struggling, ask them what is the most exciting thing that’s happened in their life lately, ask them what you can pray for them.  And so, communicate.  Think of questions to ask, where you can go deeper with your children, and have more meaningful conversation.

6)  To stay in touch regularly with them – to stay in touch, even if it’s not the easiest thing.  One of our sons lives in Nashville, with two of our little grandkids, and it’s not the easiest to stay in touch.  And so, we have to make an effort to do that, to keep in touch with him, and go visit, and be a part of their lives.

And my verse is to trust in the Lord with all my heart, and lean not on my own understanding.  You see, I realized I can’t do it.  I can’t mother them the way God wants me to, but God can.  And He wants to use me; He wants to live His life through me to do that for my children.  So, trust in Him with all my heart, lean not on my own understanding.  In all my ways acknowledge Him, and He will make my path straight.  He will show me what to do, when I don’t know what to do.

And lastly, the last season – I’m not quite there yet, but I call it “The Season of Old Age.”  And I have a promise, though.  God’s given me a promise for that season.  It’s from Isaiah 46:4, and it says, “Even to your old age I will be the same.  Even to your graying years I will bear you!  I have done it, and I will carry you; and I will bear you and I will deliver you.”

God’s saying to us, “Even to your old age, I’m not going to change.  I’m going to be the same to you.”  His promises never fail us, ever.  And He says He will sustain us through all of our lives, from the time that we are conceived in our mother’s womb until the time that we’re in our old age, that He will be watching over His own, that He protects us.

So, moms, I just want to say to you today, I hope you can realize, to some degree, how much God loves you, and how much He cares for you, in every season of your life.