girltalk Blog

Dec 11

How Not To Be The Charlie Browniest

2017 at 8:32 am   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Emotions | Homemaking | Holidays

“I think there must be something wrong with me, Linus,” Charlie Brown confesses to his friend in A Charlie Brown Christmas. “Christmas is coming, but I’m not happy. I don’t feel the way I’m supposed to feel. I just don’t understand Christmas, I guess. I like getting presents and sending Christmas cards and decorating trees and all that, but I’m still not happy. I always end up feeling depressed.”

“Charlie Brown,” chides Linus, “you’re the only person I know who can take a wonderful season like Christmas and turn it into a problem. Maybe Lucy is right. Of all the Charlie Browns in the world, you’re the Charlie Browniest.”

There may be only one Charlie Brown, but many of us can relate to his problem: It’s Christmas, but we don’t feel the way we are supposed to feel.

We’re anxious. Will the children like their presents? Is the family going to get along? If life is extra hard, we feel bitter and resentful of Christmas cheer. Disappointment litters the holiday season. Your son didn’t come home for Christmas. Your party was a flop. Envy rears its ugly head. You were reasonably content until your cousin spent an hour telling you all about her amazing life. We feel stressed about all the work we have to do, and irritable because no one is helping us do it. Grief presses down with oppressive force.

Charlie Brown got one thing right: there is something wrong with us. Sin has corrupted our experiences and corroded our emotions. We feel the devastating effects of sin all around us and to our very core, sometimes—perhaps especially—at Christmas.

But the message of Christmas doesn’t come up short of our emotions. In fact, have you noticed that the angel’s astonishing announcement was aimed straight at the shepherd’s emotions and ours as well?: “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11, emphasis mine).

The good news of Christmas is that God sent his Son, born of a virgin, to live a perfect life, to die and take the penalty for our sins and redeem us completely: body, mind, and emotions. Now we can feel the way that we are supposed to feel—not some vague, sentimental happy holiday feeling, but true, Christ-like, emotions of genuine love, deep joy, godly grief, and solid hope. Because of Christmas, we can feel the way we are supposed to feel: we can feel what God wants us to feel.

How are we supposed to feel at Christmastime? Quite simply, we are to have emotions that line up with God’s Word. This may be grief and sadness over sin and suffering, but it will also mean joy and hope in the “good news of great joy” that is the gospel. If our goal is to have God-glorifying emotions, then the good news is that we can feel the way we are supposed to feel at Christmastime. Here are three R’s for our Christmas emotions:

Revise your emotional expectations. So often, we think that holiday emotions should be unusually pleasant, but instead, we feel unusually tempted which throws us into further confusion and despair. But we shouldn’t be surprised by emotional temptation during the holidays. It’s to be expected (1 Cor. 10:13). We are busier than any other time of year, interacting with people we only see once a year (relatives, office parties, etc), and often wrongly invest in more earthly hopes than any other time of year. Is it any wonder we experience more emotional temptation? But temptation doesn’t have the last word. Instead, we need to see the Christmas season as an opportunity to grow in godly emotions. It’s a chance to see the ugly sins in our heart that may have been hiding the other eleven months of the year; but more than that, it’s an opportunity to repent and experience the Holy Spirit’s sweet grace for change.

Read and pray more. It never fails to astonish me how much there is to do at Christmastime. Most years, I’ve punted to a good advent book and shortened quiet times to get me through the season. Not so this year. It might sound cliche, but I’m so busy that I need to read more Scripture and engage in more prayer in December. I’m actually doubling up on my Bible reading so I can finish out my plan by the end of the year (I got a little behind!). And I’m not skipping over my prayer times. Nothing goes to work on our emotions more than God’s Word and his Holy Spirit working through prayer. Consider: what could you read and pray about if you got up only fifteen minutes earlier each day? Maybe you could read through the gospel of Luke or a Psalm a day. If you want to feel like you are supposed to feel this Christmas, there nothing better you can do.

“Run into” your emotions. When I was little, my parents often made me “run into” my fears. They meant that I needed to charge at my fears like a running back “runs into” the hulking linebackers in order to get to the end-zone. My parents knew that by the act of doing something I was afraid to do, my emotions of fear would greatly diminish. So this Christmas, let’s charge at our sinful emotions and push them away. In other words, as I now tell my kids, do the opposite of what you feel like doing. If you feel lonely, get out and serve someone. If you feel annoyed at a relative, take an active interest in them instead. If you feel irritable, smile. If you feel envious, give thanks to God for his good gifts to you. Far from being falsely festive, you may be surprised at how quickly your emotions will change when—instead of giving into them—you run into them, and past them toward the goal.

Charlie Brown may be the Charlie Browniest, but Christians should be the happiest. We can feel the way we are supposed to feel at Christmastime—and anytime—because the good news of great joy has come to us.

Nov 20

CJ Mahaney’s Christmas Book List 2017

2017 at 5:53 am   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under Resource Recommendations

Martin Luther: A Spiritual Biography

by Herman Selderhuis




























Last Hope Island: Britain Occupied Europe, and the Brotherhood That Helped Turn the Tide of the War

by Lynne Olson




























American Ulysses: A Life of Ulysses S. Grant

by Ronald C. White




























In the Presence of Mine Enemies: War in the Heart of America, 1859-1863

by Edward L. Ayers




























The Jersey Brothers: A Missing Naval Officer in the Pacific and His Family’s Quest to Bring Him Home

by Sally Mott Freeman




























In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin

by Eric Larson




























Ali: A Life

by Jonathan Eig




























Reading the Bible Supernaturally: Seeing and Savoring the Glory of God in Scripture

by John Piper




























The Last Great Game: Duke vs. Kentucky and the 2.1 Seconds that Changed Basketball

by Gene Wojciechowski




























Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President

by Candice Millard




























Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI

by David Grann




























Hunting Eichmann

by Neal Bascomb




























The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration

by Isabel Wilkerson





























1944: FDR and the Year That Changed History

by Jay Winik




























Avenue of Spies: A True Story of Terror, Espionage, and One American Family’s Heroic Resistance in Nazi-Occupied Paris

by Alex Kershaw




























Nov 1

New Book: True Feelings by Carolyn Mahaney and Nicole Whitacre

2017 at 6:41 am   |   by Janelle Bradshaw Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Emotions

Pardon me while I gush a little. It is with extreme joy that I get to announce the release of my mom and sister’s latest book: True Feelings: God’s Gracious and Glorious Purpose for our Emotions. This book is a result of years of biblical study, hundreds of 4 a.m. wake-ups, gallons of coffee, and one fierce desire to serve women in the body of Christ. I am bursting with excitement for you to get your hands on this book.

Having had the privilege to read the manuscript many times over the past couple of years, I have already experienced the fruit of their labor in my own walk with the Lord. As with their previous books, Mom and Nicole make you feel as if you are sitting at one of their kitchen tables. (I would know, as I sit there a lot!) True Feelings provides life-giving clarity on a topic which has been widely misunderstood; it’s a book you will want to read to the end, and then read all over again. I join Mom and Nicole in their prayer for this book:

“Our hope is to encourage women that they don’t have to live at the mercy of their confusing and conflicting emotions. In True Feelings, we attempt to clear away common misconceptions and mixed messages about our feelings and offer a biblical perspective on emotions- helping readers understand how emotions work, why we feel, and how to develop good emotional habits. We hope women will see that they don’t have to ignore, excuse, or follow their feelings, but can instead learn to honor God with their emotions as an integral part of who he made them to be.”

Get your copy of True Feelings today.

Oct 20

52Home for Christmas

2017 at 9:37 am   |   by Nicole Whitacre

With Christmas right around the corner (at least that’s what my kids tell me) you may want to check out what Mike and Janelle have been up to at 52Home. When they’re not wrangling their kiddos, they have been wallowing in sawdust and paint prepping for the season. Check out their website for ideas for everyone on your list this year.

Oct 13

Recipe for a Happy Marriage

2017 at 7:49 am   |   by Carolyn Mahaney Filed under Marriage

Recently I watched a cooking show where the celebrity chef and her husband were celebrating a milestone anniversary. The cook shared her “recipe” (ha!) for a strong marriage: “I try to make him happy and he tries to make me happy and it works!”

As far as I know, this woman is not a Christian, but she unwittingly shared marital wisdom straight from Scripture. Proverbs 31:12 describes the godly wife: “She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.” We should do our husbands good—try to make them happy—all the days of our lives.

How simple is that! We don’t need to go through each day with a mental marriage checklist, trying to figure out if we’ve ticked off all the boxes, feeling guilty and discouraged when we miss or mess up. We don’t have to remember a long list of do’s and don’ts. Instead, we can wake up each morning and ask: How can I make my husband happy today? How can I do him good? And then do it.

While it may be simple, this wifely enterprise is not easy. Easy is something “achieved without great effort,” but to do our husbands good requires deliberate, intentional effort. It takes thought and planning. It calls for tenacity so that doing our husband good doesn’t get buried under other responsibilities. Making our husbands happy is not going to happen serendipitously or on the fly; but if we are intentional, and put in the effort, we will get happy results.

Even if your husband is not seeking to make you happy, God’s grace is still at work in your marriage through your faithful, daily obedience. As it says in 1 Peter 3:1-2: “even if some [husbands] do not obey the word, they may be won without a word, by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct.” Your good for your husband can be used by God for the eternal happiness of your husband.

The good we are to do our husbands is not an exhaustive list of benevolent deeds; rather, we are to do the specific good that blesses our husbands. We are to do him good. So ask yourself: What defines “good” for my husband? What makes him happy? That’s the good you are to do. What blesses my husband might not be what blesses your husband. So personalize this verse. Put your husband’s name in it.

And a wife is to do her husband good “not at first only, or now and then, when she is in a good humor, but perpetually.” Remember how it was, at first? Nothing made us happier than to make our husbands happy. Then come kids and bills and life gets complicated and overwhelming, and our desire to do him good takes a back seat. We still want to do him good, it’s just not as important as it used to be. But even though “good” might look different in different seasons, we are to perpetually seek to make our husbands happy. When is the last time you thought, how can I do good to my husband today? Let’s make this our simple, daily goal.

As of today, I have been married for 15,627 days. And I’m painfully aware that I have not done my husband good all of those days. Instead, some days, I’ve done him harm. Some days I have been selfish or impatient. Some days I have been disrespectful or ungrateful. Some days I have been intent on getting the speck out of his eye, all the while sporting a log in mine.

Thankfully, and to my surprise, my husband doesn’t seem to remember those days. Even more amazingly, God doesn’t remember those days. “This is the great mystery of the gospel in the blood of Christ,” wrote John Owen, “that those who sin every day should have peace with God all their days.” The only way we can do good to our husbands all the days of our lives is because God does good to us. “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life” (Ps. 23:6).

Each day that you do good to your husband is like pouring sugar into a cake batter—it makes your marriage sweeter and sweeter. Some days will be harder than others, but if you persevere in this simple goal—to make your husband happy—you will get much happiness in return.

Oct 5

Book Recommendation: A Small Book about a Big Problem

2017 at 7:26 am   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under Resource Recommendations

My father-in-law has a fun Christmas tradition of putting a little book in each of our stockings. He does it as a joke, really. The books are all those little hardbound ones you find at a bookstore checkout line. My husband has been given books on baseball and Yogi Berra and mine (since I turned forty) have been about surviving old age. We all rifle through and read a few of our favorite quotes out loud, and then the books are forgotten after that. But that’s the point: a few laughs on Christmas morning.

The latest book by Ed Welch may be the size of a stocking stuffer book, but it’s not a cobbled collection of his writings by some junior editor. This little book has been carefully crafted into fifty short chapters to help us meditate on what God’s Word has to say about anger. The idea is not to read it all in one sitting but to keep this topic in the forefront of your mind, for a few minutes a day for roughly seven weeks. Welch explains in the intro:

“Why fifty days? We receive so much information and have so little time to reflect. As a result, we might be able to remember some facts but not be affected by them. A week later we won’t even remember them. This is why there are fifty daily meditations. One-a-day will work better than skimming a long book for new information and then moving on to the next thing in your life.”

When a pre-release copy of this book came into my hands, I started to read it as research for our next book on emotions, but I was immediately absorbed in the content for myself. I must confess I didn’t stick to one-a-day but devoured all fifty readings in a few days (we happened to be on vacation at the time, so I had extra time for reading). Then I went back and reread it much more slowly. I plan to do it again every year or two. This book has been for me what I imagine Ed Welch hoped it would be for every reader—a convicting, encouraging, hopeful book that has helped me take real steps of repentance and change in the area of sinful anger.

Even though I don’t think of myself as an angry person, it is a sin I am more familiar with than I care to admit, and this little book challenged me to take it seriously, all while providing biblical, practical, grace-filled help for change. Often I hear women say, “I never knew I was an angry person until…” I got married, or had kids, or had to work with this boss. And if you haven’t had that “Aha I have an anger problem” moment, it is probably in your future. So don’t wait. Get A Small Book About A Big Problem now. With the gracious assistance of the Holy Spirit, purpose to grow in patience and peace over the next seven weeks. Think of it as an early Christmas present for yourself.

Sep 27

Q&A: Helping a Fearful Child

2017 at 8:37 am   |   by Janelle Bradshaw Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Fear & Anxiety | Motherhood

Anne asks:

I have a 4-year-old daughter who is very emotional and very sensitive (your story about Caly was so encouraging because I see so many similarities) but these are dramatically intensified by the fact that she is tremendously fearful. Many of the outbursts we deal with stem from situations in which she is so afraid of something that she is just unable to function along with dramatic outbursts. This could be something as simple as hearing a rumble of thunder or even seeing a bug. I wondered if you could speak more specifically to a good approach to dealing with a very fearful child.

Yep, I hear ya. This past week we’ve had fears about ants and ticks and Baby Einstein puppets. For my emotional Caly-girl, fear was a massive issue when she was your daughter’s age, but thankfully, as God has helped her to grow in self-control, she can now talk calmly about her fears and receive our help.

To answer your question, we had a little girltalk huddle and came up with a few starter-suggestions for helping children deal with fear.

1. First Lessons in Fighting Fear – Our children’s fears present a precious opportunity to teach them how to turn to God in trouble. It doesn’t need to be complicated or elaborate. We can simply pray a little prayer with them when they are scared or teach them a one-line verse, such as Ps. 56:3: “When I am afraid, I will trust in you.” When we comfort and reassure them of our protective presence, it will give them a taste of the comfort of God. Little songs, sung by mom, also go along way to soothing big fears.

2. Self-Control (again) – I know we keep talking about self-control, but especially for the emotional child, this is one of the best ways to help them deal with fear. When Caly was a toddler, she would scream and go into hysterics over a bug. Now she can come and calmly tell us she is afraid of the bug, and receive our assurances that there is nothing to fear. Although we should always comfort a young child when they are afraid, we also want to gently but firmly help them get a grip on their emotions, and resist the temptation to submit to fear.

3. Laugh in the Face of Fear – One of the best ways to help children overcome fear is to teach them not to take their fears too seriously. The brave laugh at fear! So, for example, (and you have to get your timing right) if your child freaks out about a noise in the basement, you might smile and tell them not to worry—it is only the mouse family brushing their teeth before bed! Cheesy, but that’s the idea. Being nonchalant, cheerful, and even funny about fear has gone a long way toward abating Caly’s fears.

3. Laugh in the Face of Fear – One of the best ways to help children overcome fear is to teach them not to take their fears too seriously. The brave laugh at fear! So, for example, (and you have to get your timing right) if your child freaks out about a noise in the basement, you might smile and tell them not to worry—it is only the mouse family brushing their teeth before bed! Cheesy, but that’s the idea. Being nonchalant, cheerful, and even funny about fear has gone a long way toward abating Caly’s fears.

4. Brave Mamas Make for Brave Children – How we react to our children’s fears teaches them how they should react. If we take our cues from our children’s emotions and go into panic mode or freak out right along with them, we only reinforce the habit of fear. But if we model tranquil and cheerful emotions, appropriate to the situation, we are showing them what it looks like to be reasonable, and even brave. The stronger our own trust in God, the better we model it for our children.

5. Turn off the Tube – Sheltering can have a bad reputation, but as parents we must be especially discerning about the temptations to fear that can arise from exposure to television, media, even conversations between adults or other children that are scary. Often, we can underestimate the effect of media on a small child’s psyche; even if they aren’t scared of a particular character or scene in a show, the seriousness of the subject matter can have an outsized effect on a small child’s emotions and generate fresh fears.

6. Avoid Lobster Tanks – When I was little, I had nightmares about lobsters, so my mom made a point of avoiding the seafood section of the grocery store. What temptations to fear can you minimize for your child? Maybe you need to buy a night-light or avoid the street with the scary Halloween decorations. Strategic decisions to avoid unnecessary temptations to fear can help make it easier to deal with the many unavoidable situations. And some fears are better left un-faced. For example, I was also afraid of sleeping at other people’s houses when I was a child (you see where Caly got her propensity to fear!), but my Mom wasn’t big on sleepovers anyway, so she never insisted I run into this fear.

7. Hold Their Hands – Once our children have learned to respond with a measure of self-control to fearful situations, we can, carefully and wisely, begin to help them face and overcome specific fears. It is helpful to talk ahead of time about why this is important, explain clearly what small step we want them to take, and pray with them that God would help them to be brave. Then hold their hand until they can do it on their own. By being proactive to help our children overcome one fear, we will teach them how to face many more.

These are just a few ideas. Start small and keep the big picture in view. Our goal isn’t just to raise composed children—we want to give them training wheels to learn how to trust in God. Bugs and thunder can be scary. But by the grace of God, our children can learn how to face their fears.

~From the archives, Series: Helping Children Handle Their Emotions

Sep 17

Living Wide Awake

2017 at 8:15 am   |   by Carolyn Mahaney Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Time Management

A timer is a handy tool for mothers. When my children were young—in the days before smart-phone apps—I frequently used a white plastic egg timer to let them know when an activity was about to begin or end or how long it would last. We will leave for the pool in 10 minutes. You have 5 minutes left before it’s your sister’s turn. Read your book for 30 minutes. I also used a timer to motivate. If my children were taking too long to finish a project, I’d set a timer. If they required an incentive to do their chores, I’d set the timer. When I needed them to do something in a hurry, I’d sometimes use a timer to play beat-the-clock.

But timers are not only useful for children; they can benefit adults too. In fact, did you know that a timer has been set for our lives? We are on the clock. Holy Scripture tells us how long our lives here on earth are going to last. And it’s not long! David and Job compare the span of our lives to a breath (Ps. 144:4; Job 7:7). That’s only a second or two at most. At least Moses gave us a little more time when he likened the length of our days to grass that lasts from morning to evening (Ps. 90:5,6). Even still, a half-day is not very long!

Now, if our lifespan is comparable, to—at most—about twelve hours, this means that the seasons of our lives are only mere minutes in duration. Think about it. Whether you are a teenager, a single adult, a new bride, a mom with preschool children, an empty nester—whatever your season, you only have a few minutes left before this season ends. The timer is ticking.

I could almost hear it the other day when I read a list of the potential seasons of a woman’s life and realized that I had passed through almost all of them and had arrived at

the second-to-last season on the list. Truth is, the timer is always ticking; we just don’t always notice. Which is why David, Job, and Moses all try to rouse us—you don’t have long now! The reality of our limited lifespan sobers us up quick. It should motivate us to resist distraction, to refrain from disobedience, and to live purposefully and passionately, in an all-out sprint, for the finish line of our heavenly calling in Christ Jesus. We Christian women should always hear the tick, tick, tick.

“How well should those live who are to live so little! Is my earthly pilgrimage so brief? Then let me watch every step of it, so that in the little of time there may be much of grace,” said Charles Spurgeon.

How do we make much of grace in our little time? One of the simplest job descriptions for life is found in Ecclesiastes 3:12-13:

“I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.”

We are to be joyful and do good. What a simple, delightful assignment! In every brief season of life, whether working in the home or in the marketplace, whether cramming for tests or living out our retirement years, whether overwhelmed or aimless, our duty as Christian women is the same. Be joyful. Do good.

Be joyful.

Often, we trudge (or dash!) through the fleeting seasons of our lives with an “I can’t wait until this is over so I can enjoy life” mentality. Once I finally get these toddlers out of diapers or get these teenagers off to college…then I will be joyful. If only I can get my business off the ground or finally make enough money to retire…then I can be joyful.

But we are to be joyful today. Our timer is ticking, remember? We don’t have much time to obey this command in whatever brief season of life we find ourselves. When we move from our current season into the next, we should be able to look back and say, if nothing else: by the grace of God, I was joyful.

Joy is found in God alone: “In your presence is fulness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Ps. 16:11). So the way to be joyful in every season is to cultivate what Elisabeth Elliot calls “a habitual sense of the presence of God.” She tells mothers (and all of us) to: “Think that Almighty God, who created the stars and keeps the seasons revolving in perfect rhythm, is there in your kitchen, in your bathroom, in the laundry room, in the grocery store.” Think and your heart will be filled with wonder and joy. God is with you. Right now. Joy is where God is, and—through Christ—God is with us. How can we not be joyful?

All too easily, it seems.

You see, “a habitual sense of God’s presence” that leads to joy isn’t something we simply conjure up when we feel stressed or sad. It begins with consistent time in God’s Word and prayer and flows out into a life of daily communion with him. Joy is a “fruit of the Spirit”—a gift—that he gives to those who seek his presence continually (Gal. 5:22, Ps. 105:4). You may think that you don’t “have time” right now for consistent Bible reading and prayer, but in truth, you are throwing out the one thing that is necessary (Lk. 10:42). There is no other way to be joyful, and, being joyful is the most important responsibility you have today. How delightful is that?

Do good.

Again, our assignment is simple. We are to do good in every season, and the good we are to do is the good that God has given us to do. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). The Creator of galaxies and ocean depths has designed and fashioned each of us individually, called us by name, redeemed us from our sins, and then personally prepared good works for each of us to do.

And Scripture tells us to get excited about doing good! We are to be devoted to good works (1 Tim. 5:10), zealous for good works (Tit. 2:14), have a reputation for good works (1 Tim. 5:10), adorn ourselves with good works (Tit. 2:9-10), and stir up one another for good works (Heb. 10:24).

If our lives feel complicated and stressful, it’s often because we’ve forgotten this simple command. So when you wake up in the morning, ask yourself: What is the good God has prepared for me to do today? (Hint: It’s usually right in front of you. Make your bed. Care for your children. Be gracious to your coworker. Joyfully receive unwelcome interruptions.) Then do it. Do it with all your heart.

Living Wide Awake

Be joyful and do good—it sounds so simple, so pleasant, so doable. Our problem is that our spiritual glasses get so fogged up with the momentary pleasures and problems of daily life, that we forget it’s passing so quickly. In fact, many of us live as if our present season is going to last forever.

John Calvin’s words bring us back with a jolt:

“Whence proceeds the great stupidity of men, who, bound fast to the present state of existence, proceed in the affairs of life as if they were to live two thousand years…. In short, men are so dull as to think that thirty years, or even a smaller number, are, as it were, an eternity; nor are they impressed with the brevity of their life so long as this world keeps possession of their thoughts…. How speedily our life vanishes away. The imagination that we shall have long life, resembles a profound sleep in which we are all benumbed.”

Let’s “wake up” to the fact that we have only a short time left in our present season. More importantly, let’s live as if we have just a few minutes remaining. With one eye on our heavenly timer, let’s be joyful and do good. Truly, as the wise teacher of Ecclesiastes says, there is nothing better.

Sep 14

Q&A: Screen Time and Your Small Child

2017 at 8:24 am   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under Motherhood

Q: How do I cut back on my children’s screen time? My children are four and six, and I keep reading reports about the dangerous effects of too much screen time, but I don’t know how to get through a day without their TV shows, or how to get errands done or go out to eat without using a device. Any advice you have would be most appreciated.

When you are caring for small children, the days can feel like they are forty hours long. Your children’s needs are so constant, your energy is so low, and screen time is so there. One half-hour show turns into three. You can’t get through the grocery store without pulling out a device. Then the guilt crashes in.

But how much screen time is too much and what can we do about it? One of the most potent dangers of screen time is how easy and accessible it is, which means that as mothers, we need to be all the more intentional and deliberate in how we regulate our children’s use of electronic devices. We can’t just slide into screen time. But neither can we make mothering decisions in reaction to the latest dire report or because Melissa Gates said so. If we’re going to parent with peace and resolve, we must start with God’s Word. In order to evaluate our child’s screen time biblically, we need to ask ourselves: What is our biblical responsibility as parents and how does screen time contribute or detract from that God-given responsibility?

As Christian parents, our responsibility is simple: We are to “bring [our children] up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4).

This means, first of all, that we must teach our children God’s commands. What does this look like? Deuteronomy 6 paints the picture: “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and 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” (6: 6-7). In other words, our motherly teaching from God’s Word—not Curious George or My Little Pony—should be the primary content filling our children’s days. So let’s take our child’s screen time and hold it up next to Deuteronomy 6 for a moment. Do God’s commands or the PBS Kids lineup comprise the bulk of our child’s educational diet? Which characters fill our child’s imagination and who do they talk about—the Octonauts or the Creator of all the creatures of land and sea? Can our children sing more TV intros than they can recite Scripture verses? Answers to questions like these will expose those hidden areas of excess screen time.

Second, we must train our children to obey God’s commands. Our primary mission in the early years of mothering is to train our children to listen to and follow our commands—immediately, completely, and cheerfully—so they will, by the grace of God, learn how to follow the Lord with all their hearts and reap the blessings of obedience. Start here, and screen time decisions get real clear real fast. How much screen time is too much? If our child spends more time on a device than in “Mom’s School of Obedience” it’s too much time, simple as that. When is it appropriate to give our child a device? If we hand our child a tablet every time they fuss or put them in front of a show whenever they get wild, we are, in fact, rewarding disobedience, and undermining the whole operation. Now, please know, it is not wrong to let your child play an app while you chat with the in-laws or to watch an extra hour or two of television when you get the flu. But if screen time has eclipsed training time, or become a tool for manipulation, we must prayerfully reevaluate its place in our home.

Maybe you already know. Yep, I’ve let my kids have too much screen time and I feel terrible about it. We’ve all stumbled in many ways as parents, but we must never let our pride to get in the way of serving our children. If we have trusted in Christ for salvation, we can acknowledge our parenting failures, receive God’s forgiveness and grace to change, and parent—guilt free—from this day forward. And be assured: It is possible to wean your child from excess screen time without losing your mind. Here are a few practical ideas:

1. Start small. If you try to remove all devices all at once, you will regret it big time. The more heavily you have relied upon screen time to fill the hours and smooth the rough spots in your day, the longer the weaning process may take. So start small. Choose one time and place (home, at first) to go sans device. Eat this elephant one bite at a time.

2. Replace screen time with special time. Instead, of suddenly declaring to your unsuspecting children—“That’s it, no more screen time!”—tell them it is time for something new and exciting. Get out a new toy or check out some new books from the library. Hand them a drink, their favorite stuffed animal, and tuck them into a special reading corner. Instead of a morning date with their favorite show, have art time with crayons and a coloring book. Develop a plan ahead of time and make it fun and special. Give it a “name” and be excited about it. Maybe even set a timer and train them to stick with a single activity for a few more minutes each day. And when you leave the house, pack a bag of go-to activities or treats. You can also replace the background noise of the television with stories and songs that teach God’s Word.

3. Don’t give up. If things don’t go well at first, this should only confirm your original suspicions that a change was sorely needed! So don’t get discouraged, but persevere. It takes time to replace a bad habit with a good one. And it requires consistent training. Maybe you need to plan trips to the grocery store where the only purpose is training them to get through without screen time. Maybe, after dinner, you have your children practice sitting quietly with a few books for ten extra minutes, so that eventually (the operative word, here) you can go out to a peaceful dinner as a family. Whatever you do, stick with it, and you will, after many days, reap the rewards.

4. Give screen time a set time. When you do let your children use a device or watch a show, be deliberate and intentional. Choose a time each day—like when you need to make dinner, or help another child with homework—and teach them to sit still with their device for a specific amount of time. Thus, screen time becomes part of their obedience training and gives you that needed break as well.

5. Don’t freak out in an emergency. If your child starts getting restless in the middle of a long ceremony, or if you are out of milk and Tylenol and your little one is snotty and fussy, by all means, hand your child a device and thank God for the blessings of technology. You can get back to teaching and training in the morning.

Parenting is hard, but our God-given parenting responsibilities come with his grace which fulfills “every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power” (2 Thess. 1:11, emphasis mine). With the Spirit’s help, we can resist the siren call of screen time and teach and train our children to love and follow God’s commands.

Sep 7

An Important Rule for Peace

2017 at 8:11 am   |   by Carolyn Mahaney Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Trusting God | Friendship

It’s a commonly accepted truth: the older you get, the less you care about what others think about you. This can be a good thing, ushering in a new freedom from timidity and self-focus. Or it can take an unhealthy turn, leading to bad hair-dye jobs, unfortunate wardrobe choices, or—more seriously—unkind or selfish behavior toward others. As Christian women, we should not simply drift into a middle-aged indifference toward the opinions of others. We should be deliberate to shed our sinful preoccupation of what others think of us—and the earlier the better—so that we can be free to run our lives in an all out sprint for the glory of God. How can we shed the oppressive and excessive care of what others think of us—whether we are twenty-five or sixty-five?

A few years ago, I came across this valuable nugget of advice from a nineteenth-century pastor named Charles Simeon: “My rule is—never to hear, or see, or know, what if heard, or seen, or known, would call for animadversion from me. Hence it is that I dwell in peace in the midst of lions.” I had to look up “animadversion”: it means “criticism or censure.” Simeon is saying that he made it a rule never to hear (or see or know) anything that had a detrimental effect on his soul. This is how he maintained the peace of Daniel in the midst of “lions” who spoke evil of him.

Whether we are in the lion’s den or green pastures, a young woman or well into middle-age, we would do well to make it our rule never to imagine or attempt to find out what other people are thinking or saying about us. And in case you need convincing, all you have to do is consider what happens when you don’t follow this rule. Think with me for a moment about the consequences of worrying about what others think or say.

For starters, it is a futile exercise. As much as we would like to believe otherwise, we can’t control another person’s opinions or actions. Being suspicious about someone won’t change that person. And if we try to find out if our suspicions are true—asking around or even asking the person directly—we may end up wondering if we are getting accurate information, which only leads to more suspicion. Or, if we happen to get our suspicions confirmed, then we feel worse. So you see, it’s a fruitless and futile effort that leads nowhere good.

It’s also a destructive exercise. Trying to control what others think and say about us hurts, and we are the ones who get hurt. Long before Charles Simeon, the wise teacher of Ecclesiastes said: “Do not take to heart all the things that people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you” (7:21). If we put our ear to the keyhole, we’re probably going to hear things we wish we hadn’t heard, and words have a penetrating effect on our souls. We all probably remember unkind words spoken to us by others that still come back with fresh emotion—which is why we would do well not to go looking for more of this kind of thing. It’s out there, to be sure, but why try to find it, if it only makes us miserable? “If all men knew what each other said of the other there would not be four friends in the world,” wrote Blaise Pascal. In other words, there is something to be said for the idea that ignorance is bliss.

Thirdly, to suspiciously search out any bad word against us is a hypocritical exercise. To our shame, we must admit that we have thought and said unkind things about other people—even those we love the most. Ecclesiastes calls us out in the very next verse: “Your heart knows that many times you yourself have cursed others” (7:22). How many times have we resented the more beautiful woman, criticized the boss, felt superior to a fellow-mom, judged a family member, or laughed at someone’s embarrassing moment? When we remember our own failures, we are humbled. Our case for justice crumbles in light of our sinful, hypocritical tendencies.

Investigating or speculating on the opinions of others is an arrogant exercise, for it starts with a false and puffed up assessment of who we really are. This is why, as Charles Spurgeon says, “It is always best not to know nor wish to know, what is being said about you, either by friends or foes. Those who praise us are probably as much mistaken as those who abuse us.” The impulse to elicit encouragement or stamp out criticism comes from an arrogant and inflated view of ourselves. The humble woman does not look for encouragement or fear criticism because her self-assessment already agrees with the apostle Paul’s: “that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost” (1 Tim. 1:15).

Finally, to be consumed with what other people think about us is a self-focused exercise. Spurgeon again: “It is a crime to be taken off from your great object of glorifying the Lord Jesus by petty consideration as to your little self, and, if there were not other reason, this ought to weigh much with you.” As if all the previous reasons weren’t enough, this ought to motivate us to give up our selfish speculations once and for all. We were not saved from our sins so that we could spend our lives in “petty consideration” of what others think of our little selves. We were saved to bring glory to God: “and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Cor. 5:15).

Whether we are a teenage girl going to a new school or a grandmother moving into a new retirement community, let’s make it our rule—starting today—never to hear, or see, or know what would wreck our peace and take our eyes off of our main object, to glorify God. Instead of wondering what others think about us, let’s ask ourselves: “How can I glorify God today?” Then, we too will dwell in peace.