the mothering arts

in all things…

I’ve been struggling to write this post for over six months, and here it comes now- I just need to be out with it. I find myself rooted like some stubborn turnip to this spot and in order to move on, I’ve got to do it.

I can’t ever seem to start it right- to hook the reader in, to explain my aim- so I erase and delete, scribble and mark out.

So I shall just dive in, gulp of air, and breathe out what has been in my heart for so long.

I am not a ‘good’ Christian.

I am not a ‘good’ mama.

I am not a ‘good’ wife.

I do not line up with the definitions.

I came from a fractured, broken spiritual journey bouncing from church to church every other year for years on end. My journey with Christ is still so many shards of beautiful glass.

I came from a broken home. My home is broken still.

I came from a broken heart. My heart breaks still.

I breathe in the grace-air and I wonder at it all. Such grace that I am here, that He loves me so much (that He loves you so much, too, friend)- this dreadful, terrifying place of belief, of journey. How amazed I am that new skin grows where the old scars slough off, that I breathe and move, when every time it happens I am sure that my inner heart will stop cold, the pain so unbearable as to steal breath away.

And, I know that I am not alone. I am not unique in my struggles and failures, my journey of brokenness and pain, healing and hope.

As much as I dearly love my online community. As much as I dearly love my church home. As much as I dearly love my fellow journey goers on the path of Christ….

I must stuff my ears and stop the madness.

The dangerous falsehoods that linger, waiting to attack, in the shroud of ‘good’. This is what a ‘good wife’ is. This is what  a ‘good mama’ is. Here, let me list out all the prooftexts out of context to wrap around your neck like so  many stones waiting to pull you under the water, that crush larynx, cut off breath. That leave your home in wreckage and refuse of a thousand undone expectations.

As some have noted, I was ‘raised in the church’ and home schooled, too. Somehow, because of this, I am supposed to be immune to the travails of this world. Where did this dreadful assumption come from? It is rank in the homeschool arena, that somehow, someway, if parents as teachers, parents as disciplers of their children, if they follow formula a.b.c.-their kids will turn out perfect, fine, well-rounded, well-balanced adults with a strong and vibrant faith. This dreadful assumption that if we can just get it right- we can somehow save our children.

I am not immune.

I am not ‘good’.

My parents could not save me, anymore than they could save themselves.

And here too, I see the model of womanhood traipsed before me like a goody-two-shoes Mrs. America high on religion. A good woman will be so and so and such and such, and again, this dreadful assumption that somehow if the kitchen is spotless, if I rise before the dawn, if my children are well behaved (at least, in public), if I’ve read my allotted Bible reading for the day and said my perfunctory prayers, that somehow I am ‘good’.

But if my faith is dead behind that dreadful facade, how can I be ‘good’?

Lest I be misunderstood, God is good.

But me, broken clay, troubled spirit- I am not good.

I don’t like roughing the waters, I don’t like dark things, I don’t like being contrary. But I feel like I’ve got to say this or I’ll die somewhere inside.

These grievous, dastardly, misbegotten definitions of ‘good’ are doing more damage for the Enemy that most believers could ever fathom.

If I abide by the current Christian cultural standards of what a good homekeeper/mama/wife is, I would be ‘good’, yes. But I would not be doing what God called me to do. And I would be spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically unhealthy.

And the most galling part about it all- some of those very things that do, so-called, make me ‘good’- they happen out of a natural outpouring of chasing after God. They are an after-thought to the real relationship with my Lord. But they are not my relationship with God. That our family of believers has gotten this so confused, that I have gotten this so confused, so very many times, should cause us great sorrow.

That we’ve started to use this ‘good’ as a benchmark, and worse, that we would even presume to judge another’s journey with the Lord based on this crooked yard stick, Lord have mercy.

I am not saying, in return, that you or I have a free pass to do whatever the heck we want because all those definitions of ‘good’, spoken by broken human mouths, are perverted. We still have a responsibility before God to follow His commands, to breathe Love and Grace, as He has breathed love and grace upon us, to live the essence of the Gospel as best as we can, with God’s help. But we must do this with a realization that we will never be ‘good’. We will never be ‘good enough’. The law of the Lord is perfect, but we on our own will never accomplish it, for if we fail in one small way, we have failed the whole of it.  But we have a great Hope that we seem too often to forget in the nitty gritty, jot and tittle reality of our lives. We have Christ, and Christ crucified- He died that we might Live in glorious freedom, law fulfilled. We are the Easter people. How can we forget?

I have been crushed under this weight for a while, and my husband finally said “enough”. I did not have the power to stop the addiction on my own. The addiction to ‘good’. To some illegitimate definition of good, the offspring of the Enemy.

It has been a harder journey than I ever could have thought.

This ‘good’ definition sits like an evil sprite on my shoulder every time I make a decision that is not ‘good’ by our current Christian standard. It torments me more than I would like to admit to, and so often I have had to call those I trust who remind me that while my hearth and home may not be the definition of ‘good’ by human standards, God is greater, far larger, than my biggest failings and He looks on my innermost being. He will know if I loved my husband and children well, if I led my children in faith as best as I knew how, if I followed his commands. He’s seen every undone task, every dirty load of laundry, every crunchy floor, every paper plate and frozen meal, every choice I have ever made. Only He knows if I made those choices for His glory or for my own. I am not a ‘good’ parent. But He is. And when I stumble, when my kids stumble, no matter what, He is there. He didn’t promise a life of ease, a perfect definition of ‘good’. But He did promise that He would be with us. Emmanuel.

As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

We WILL NOT serve ‘good’.

There is a vast difference.


  • Natalie

    Wow, what a fantastic post! I am not good, either, Joy. And I have spent too much time and energy trying to do what I thought was “good.” Trying to fake it and become someone I was not. Trying to fit some mold of “good” that God had not set for me. It left me in a terrible place. I am still climbing out and learning. Still a long way to go but I finally think I am on the right road. The one where the Lord is leading and it doesn’t look like anyone else’s journey- because it shouldn’t! Thank you for this post.

  • Sandi @ A Mother's Musings

    I have read this twice. And each time I don’t know what to write. So here goes. I’m kinds writing out loud.

    I get this, it’s worming it’s way into living little by little. It’s not about getting it right according to a certian standard. It’s living that authentic genuine person who reflects His image as we relish in the truth that He has paid it all. This is ME in Him and nothing else.

    I need to rest from striving to get it right becasue in the pursiut I am leaving this wake of carnage. The flying debris hits my kids and husband. It is teaching them to do life not live it. I don’t want that for them. I want them to love Him and delight cherish and treasure Him not show up for duty.

    Does any of this make sense? If not just overlook it :o)

  • Joy


    I really get what you’re saying. Can you tell I was thinking out loud when I wrote this post?

    I’ve just been struggling with people criticizing me (and I myself bashing myself over the head with) this twisted definition of ‘good’. I am realizing that it is another form of perfectionism, dressed up in fancier clothes. I just had this awful, sudden realization that I could do everything on the list to be a ‘good Christian woman’…and my home, my family, could be in complete shambles. It was partially what was happening in my own home, but also a situation with a girl friend- she suffered this sort of total mental/emotional breakdown, and she was the quote/unquote ‘godliest’ woman I knew. I felt like God gave me a peek into her life so that I could stop before I went careening over the cliff too…

    I think the scariest part about it is that it comes out of a genuine desire to do good- I mean, who wouldn’t want to be a good mother, a good wife? But somewhere along the way I think we start trading one for the other, and equate ‘checking of the ‘good woman’ list as actually being in relationship with others and with God, if that makes sense? And we end up missing the boat entirely.

    And, particularly in the blogging world, there is this perception and standard of ‘good woman’ that is constantly repeated ad nauseam that I’ve watched put whole families into serious bondage. The carnage is incalculable. That can’t be right, no matter how many bible verses some one throws at me to prove the point- I think of I Cor. 13 in this regard- so what if I attend bible study on time every week, but I turn around and ignore and belittle my husband? So what if my floors are swept and my house is clean but I haven’t listened to my children once today? So what if the laundry is folded but my little ones haven’t had a hug and cuddle from me today? So what if I cook this amazing, from-scratch, organic meal for dinner, but dinner time is fraught with tension because I’ve yelled and fussed at my children all day long? All those proof texts have to be held within the whole of Scripture, and Scripture never contradicts itself.

    I’ve watched myself (and others) go way off the deep end trying to check off that ridiculous list that seems so godly and wonderful on the surface but is hiding chains and whips beneath. And I guess this is my way of saying I am resigning from that particular ‘obligation’. I need to hear God. Not ‘good’ spoken by humans.

  • Christine

    I am so sorry you’ve been criticized!

    I am considerably older than you, and compared to my twenties and thirties, I care little now what anyone thinks of me. I used to be driven more by the desire to be considered “good”. I may still be embarrassed by certain perceived failings now and again, but I put it in perspective pretty quickly.

    I care about keeping up with clutter and organization not to please anyone, but because if I don’t, I’m driven even more insane. If I take time to myself in the evenings instead of do chores, I end up behind and stressed by the clutter all around me. If I keep up with clutter and folding laundry and the crunchy floors, I feel stressed because I don’t have any time to unwind. So I can’t win. Either way, I feel stress. I’ve come to accept that this is the season of having littles. In short, it isn’t chaotic because we aren’t good enough at mothering or at homemaking. It’s chaotic simply because the children are all so young and needy. They cry easily and can’t wait very long for things, and sometimes there’s more than one crying and needing a diaper at a time. I could go on about the stressful moments that regularly come up, but I know you get it. My sanity can unravel quickly.

    Keep in mind that even in the Christian world, few families grow as large as yours, and as fast. Mine grew large quickly too. I know how your days are, because mine have to be very similar. We moms of many littles barely have time to keep ourselves hydrated and fed, not to mention going to the bathroom when we need to. The needs of the children are overwhelming! The house gets trashed beyond belief–not because we aren’t doing something right, but because we are constantly running to keep up with their needs. The schooling adds work, but it also adds routine, which makes it a blessing. Behavior is better around here on school days.

    I know that women with just a few kids, or with kids who are farther apart in age, can’t possibly understand my life. I don’t expect them to. Given the opportunity to peek at my house, they would be appalled. They would judge, because they haven’t walked a day in my shoes. I expect people to judge who have different experiences. Although if they’ve suffered much, they tend to judge far less, and if they are past their thirties, they tend to judge less, simply because life experiences teach us to extend more mercy and grace more readily.

    I don’t always treat my children and husband well, because I’d have to be a saint to live this daily life and never get frazzled. I believe you, too, have no extended family near you? That makes it much, much harder to have multiple littles.

    As far as the whole food cooking, I think that is very ambitious when a young baby is around. I used processed food when my baby was in her first year. And especially when my husband was working nights.

    I mainly wrote again to make sure my blog does not reflect any of the things that exasperate you. If I take pictures, I try to include pictures of some messes, so as not to give a phony impression. Is it perfect-looking pictures that bother you about some blogs, or is it writing about the perfect Proverbs 31-type woman? I want to make sure I don’t offend anyone! Thank you!

  • Joy


    Gosh no, I love stopping by your blog, although I rarely ever comment. Which is bad blogger etiquette. *grins*

    And I’m not against bloggers in general. It is just as pervasive in the church I attend- these Prov.31 obsessed ‘super women’ who have traded the real thing for a pasteboard jewel. They worry me because they follow after that ‘good’ often to the abandonment of everything else. I realized I was going down that path- I watched a dear friend nearly destroy herself and her family in that pursuit.

    All I can do is nod my head at so much of what you have said…it’s just the nature of where we’re at at the moment.

    I hate it if this post sounds judgmental. I don’t mean it to be…I am just trying to be heart-honest about a very scary danger I am seeing around me. That I saw in myself. And I feel like I have this obligation as a blogger too, to separate myself from that ‘ideal’. And be honest and not phony. Blogging is such an ‘edited’ thing…I hope nobody ever feels that burden of ‘good’ after visiting here. Lord help me.

  • Sandi @ A Mother's Musings

    Blogging is such a fleeting glimpse of someones real life. That is where the danger can lay….in comparing ourselves to only these little moments typed out with no real personal context. We tend to forget that there is so much more to the story and that person’s life. I also think sometimes blogging can become a way of prepetuating the surface. That’s why I apprecaite your honesty and candor. I think we want to put our best forward for the world to see …it’s in our nature to not to want to fall short. I think that’s why I fight to be rescued and saved. I just want to be able to do it myself. What I struggle through teaches me dependance and need. I find if someone hasn’t been in a desperate place they tend to judge way more. And I have had my share of judgement with a child who struggles in atypical ways.

    I often don’t write until I have worked through something so it could easy be taken that my life is all about gratfulness and goodness. Most days I am holding on for dear life lately, loving my special needs child. Fighting for joy in the chaos. Learning that chaos doesn’t make me a failure.

    Anyway I am SO rambling at this point. I wish we could have cup of coffee and REALLY share our stories. But I will settle for honest pursuit of God when you get the chance to clink it out on the key board.

    I’m with ya. No more judgement of other peoples stories. No more trying to measure up and get it right. I just want to live MY life for his glory and hopefully love some people along the way. I so think each of us represent his image as we live the story he has written for each of us. That is a blog post in itself.

    Okay rambling again.

    Blessings to you as you love those kiddos, that man and God!

  • Joy


    Ramble away! *grins*

    I’ll put the coffee on.

    You were on my heart today while I was talking with another mama in my co-op with a SPD boy too…would that I could get ya all in a room together!

Tell me what's on your heart~

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