Have you ever looked into the faces of the people who call you “mom” and wondered what in the world you got yourself into? If you’re like many Christian moms today, you’ve been reading the headlines and watching the rapid-fire changes in our culture with frustration and fear. Let’s face it: Moms today are facing questions that previous generations didn’t even see coming, and even our right to determine what is best for our own children is under fire. Popular speaker and blogger Heidi St. John (The Busy Mom) believes that today’s mothers need a special kind of strength. We need to be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. We dare not rely on human strength for the battles we’re facing right now. In Becoming MomStrong, Heidi has a powerful message just for you―the mom in the midst of it all. Through encouragement, practical prayer points, and authentic “me-too” moments, Heidi equips you for a job that only you can do: to train your children to hear God’s voice and to walk in truth no matter where our culture is heading. God wants to use this generation of mothers to do something extraordinary:
- To be strong in the Lord
- To know who you are in Christ, and
- To impart that strength to your kids.
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About the Author
Heidi St. John is a popular conference speaker, author, and blogger at the Busy Mom. Heidi speaks all over the country, bringing hope and encouragement from God's Word to women. She and her husband, Jay, are the founders and executive directors of Firmly Planted Family, an organization focused on family discipleship. The St Johns live in Washington State, where they enjoy life with their seven children and their grandchildren.
Read an Excerpt
GOOD NEWS — YOUR KIDS CAME WITH A MANUAL!
I like manuals. Luckily for me, most things come with one. Your car came with a manual. So did your TV and your Crock-Pot. Last week, I actually bought an eyeliner manual. You know, because, really, I'm just making that up as I go too.
When it comes to parenting, there are a lot of great books out there. But MomStrong moms are looking for more than advice — we're looking for wisdom. And God tells us that the beginning of wisdom is found in knowing the Lord (see Psalm 111:10). The way we find out what God's character is like is by reading His Word. Every other book out there (including this one) pales in comparison to that singular literary masterpiece. It's the only book you need.
I learned this lesson from an older couple when my now-grown kids were still very young. In fact, it's etched in my memory forever.
One Saturday afternoon when my husband, Jay, and I were rookie parents, a couple from church stopped by. Jay had been a pastor for just five years or so, and I was doing my best to juggle the roles of pastor's wife and mom to three kids under the age of six. Garry and Carol had been running errands, and they felt like the Lord told them to drop by on their way home to see how we were doing. In fact, I'm sure it was the Lord's prompting, because Jay and I were fighting, and there's no way we would have invited them over to see that.
Now you need to know me and my sweet man to truly grasp the nature of our "fights." We're not screamers, though once in a blue moon we will raise our voices. We don't throw things either. (We made this rule after I accidentally gave my husband a black eye during a heated argument just after our first anniversary, when I kicked my shoe off at him and it hit him squarely in the eye. It was totally an accident, but he's still getting marriage mileage from it!)
It's embarrassing to admit, but that day we were pretty up in arms over a parenting issue with one of our delightful little angels. I can't remember what it was about — when you have seven kids, those details can get a bit fuzzy — but I'll never forget the humbling experience of looking at our screen door and seeing Garry and Carol standing there staring at us ... and looking rather amused. After all, it's not every day you happen to walk in on your pastor and his wife acting like three-year-olds in a sandbox.
"Is this a bad time?" Carol asked, sheepishly holding out a box of doughnuts.
Jay and I looked at each other. I felt my face getting hot. "Of course not," we lied. "Come on in."
Garry and Carol sat on the couch, but the awkwardness of the moment persisted. Finally, I looked at Jay and then back at our friends. There was no point in pretending that now was a "good time." We were clearly not having a great day.
"To be honest," I started, "we're having a disagreement. Do you mind if we get your perspective on it?"
It's worth noting here that Garry and Carol weren't a couple of newlyweds. They were the parents of five wonderful daughters, and we had a tremendous amount of respect for them. We were still very much in the "experimental" part of our parenting, and we clearly needed some advice and godly counsel.
Carol and Garry spent quite a while listening to us talk about our problems and a particularly long time patiently sitting by as I unpacked a load of my insecurities about motherhood. That's when Carol noticed something.
"Heidi, I see you've been reading a lot about parenting," she said. She was right. On the coffee table in front of them sat a plethora of books. Carol picked up one of my favorites and thumbed through it. "This is a pretty good one," she said as she put it back on the table, "but I can't help noticing the absence of the book you really need to be reading."
I raised an eyebrow. Good! I thought. She was going to lead me to the holy grail of parenting books! I reached for a pen and paper.
"I don't see a Bible anywhere on this table."
(Insert painful silence here.)
I'm not gonna lie: that was awkward. Here I was, a pastor's wife, caught in a full-on argument with my husband, surrounded by every self-help book on the shelf ... except the Bible.
Now Carol wasn't being rude; her tone wasn't the least bit condescending. I knew she loved me. I also knew she was right.
"Heidi," she continued, "if you commit to spending more time in your Bible, you will soon discover that you won't need to rely on these other books. The Bible and the Holy Spirit are all you really need. Wisdom starts in the Word. God will give you whatever else you are lacking. And if that includes finding encouragement from these other books, you'll know that, too."
It's been nearly twenty years since then, but I've never forgotten Carol's exhortation to me. It was the first time that I realized I was depending on human voices and that those voices were taking priority over the voice of my heavenly Father.
To be MomStrong is to understand what comes first. Our priority must be hearing from the Lord in every aspect of our lives. If we're not listening for the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit, we're more likely to fall victim to the latest and greatest parenting fad or to get sucked into the trap of believing we can do it without the Lord — and that's exactly what the enemy wants.
THE TROUBLE WITH COOKIE-CUTTER PARENTING
Garry and Carol's visit marked the beginning of when Jay and I turned away from cookie-cutter parenting advice and started learning to listen more carefully for God's wisdom. Good teachers and pastors are wonderful, but they're no substitute for time alone with the Lord. We need to hear from God more than we hear from people.
In the nineties, Jay and I participated in a popular parenting class at our church with several other young couples. Those were formative years for all of us, and we wanted to get it right. All the parents who took the class with us were well meaning, and I'm sure the author of the course was well meaning too. But the results (i.e., how the theory worked in real life) ranged from disappointing to devastating. The problem? Too many of us accepted this cookie-cutter approach to parenting as the inspired Word of God rather than directly seeking the Lord.
We all did our best to follow the advice laid out in the book we were studying. It touched on virtually every aspect of parenting: there was a right way and a wrong way to feed babies, and there was a right way and a wrong way to do naptime and bedtime. It really was a formula for parenting. The trouble is, formulaic approaches to parenting don't usually work, because each child is different. We learned very quickly that what worked for one child didn't necessarily work for the next one, and so on.
Many of the lessons we learned in the class were excellent, but the hard-and-fast rules of the program set the stage for what turned into legalistic, performance-based parenting. It was as if there were a competition between the families in the class. Whose kids were the most polite? Which ones came running as soon as they heard their names?
One morning in church, I noticed that my kids were arguing over something. Normally I would have just corrected the situation, but in this parenting competition I'd placed myself into, the stakes seemed higher. I felt like I had to crack down hard on the infraction. Suddenly I felt like everyone was watching my children. It didn't help that I was a pastor's wife either. Every time the kids disobeyed me in church, I was deeply embarrassed for others to view my apparent lack of parenting know-how.
The comparison trap was stealing the joy from parenting — but worse than that, it had us all focused on achieving temporary obedience rather than gaining insight into our individual children. That pride and embarrassment put the focus solely on my children's actions rather than on their hearts.
This is the real danger of formulaic parenting. Formulas tend to make parents believe that correct actions always indicate a contrite heart. Of course, that's simply not true. A child can be made to sit down on the outside and still be standing on the inside. In the past twenty years, I've never met a mom who merely wanted her children to act like good kids. We want more than that for our kids — we want them to be good kids. Unfortunately, performance-based parenting often encourages just that — a performance.
Of course, reading advice from other godly people isn't bad; we can glean much wisdom from believers who have walked the journey before us. But when we do all our learning from others and forget to spend time with the Lord, we're in danger of winning the battle and losing the war.
The battles come in the form of everyday issues like getting your kids to put away their toys, sit still at the dinner table, and brush their teeth. These are largely just prewar warmups, and we all approach these situations differently. But war is different: the stakes are higher. We're talking about the hearts and minds of our children here — their character, their compassion, their moral foundation, and their capacity to love. Matters of preference are inconsequential; matters of the heart and soul are eternal. MomStrong moms understand the difference, and while they don't ignore the battles, they know that their primary focus must be on winning the war.
WHEN FATHER DOESN'T KNOW BEST
I want to go a little deeper with this "battle vs. war" idea because I know firsthand how easy it is to lose sight of the larger goal of capturing the hearts of our children. It's possible to win battles with our kids over lesser things but lose their hearts in the process. To that end, MomStrong moms are always asking, "What's the bigger issue?" It's easy to look back and agree that having a kid who isn't potty trained by the time the books say he should be pales in comparison to making sure the hearts of our children are tuned to hear that still, small voice of the Lord. The hearts of our children are what we want to guard above all else, and perhaps no one learned this lesson the hard way as much as King David did.
In 1 Kings 1:1-14, we read the story of King David and two of his sons, Adonijah and Solomon. Both his sons knew their father was dying, and both wanted to be king in his place. As we read the story, we see that Adonijah was absolutely set on taking his dad's place, despite the fact that the throne had already been promised to Solomon. Adonijah began boasting, "I will make myself king!" He then got together a bunch of chariots and charioteers and recruited fifty men to run in front of him (see 1 Kings 1:5). According to Scripture, King David had never disciplined his son at any time, even by asking, "Why are you doing that?" (see 1 Kings 1:6).
Seriously? Never? Listen, I wasn't there (I know — shocker), but my guess is that King David's children were not all that unlike my own kids. I bet they pushed their parents to the absolute limit dozens of times. In fact, I'm sure they gave their father dozens of reasons to discipline them, but even so, the Bible says King David didn't take advantage of any of these opportunities. David gave Adonijah autonomy, position, and everything money could buy, yet he neglected to give him the one thing he needed most: fear and respect for the Lord.
So how'd that work out? Well, to make a long story short, while Adonijah was running around partying with his friends and anointing himself king, David followed through on his promise to his wife Bathsheba and anointed their son, Solomon, king instead. When Adonijah tried to overtake his brother's throne, Solomon had him killed. And there you have it: a serious case of winning a battle and losing a war. David's failure to hold his sons accountable for their actions cost both him and his family dearly.
There is a huge part of me that totally gets what David was going through. Like most parents, I imagine that David probably got tired of listening to complaints from and about his children. After all, King David had many wives — there are eight named in the Bible. The man had his hands full, with nineteen sons and at least one daughter. He had a full-time job just managing the people of Israel, let alone all his wives and children.
It would be easy to make excuses for David's lousy track record, but instead I hope we can learn from it. First lesson: just say no to multiple wives. And on a more practical level, even when we feel overwhelmed by the job of correcting our children — when we think we can't do it for one more second — our kids need us to stay engaged. David's decision to disengage from the hard work of parenting left his family tree in chaos.
The way I see it, David's troubles aren't that different from our own. (Well, with the exception of the multiple wives. Even I can see that's a bad idea.) Regardless, our culture today is quick to excuse parents from the tough job of parenting.
In February 2013, police officers pulled over fifteen-year-old Ethan Couch in the family pickup truck. In addition to having no driver's license, the underage Texan boy was drunk on vodka, an open bottle tossed in the back of the truck. A passed-out girl slumped next to Ethan in the passenger seat. It was widely reported that the young man was disrespectful to the police officer, who tried to warn him about the dangers of drinking and driving.
When Couch left later with his mother, Tonya, he had received two citations for his crimes. This wasn't new territory for the Couch family, as they already had a history of defying the law and then using their wealth to avoid prosecution.
Four months later on June 15, Ethan, drunk once again, plowed through a group of people helping at the scene of a minor accident. Four people were killed. In the court case that followed, Couch was charged with four counts of intoxication manslaughter and two counts of intoxication assault. Tarrant County prosecutors were seeking a maximum sentence of twenty years of imprisonment for Couch, but in December 2013, Judge Jean Hudson Boyd sentenced Couch to ten years of probation after his attorneys successfully argued that the teen needed rehabilitation instead of prison.
While the story of Ethan Couch is tragic, it was his defense strategy that made his case famous. According to psychologist G. Dick Miller, who testified in court, Ethan was a product of "affluenza" and was unable to link his actions with their consequences because his parents had taught him that wealth buys privilege.
Does that sound like anyone else you know? If King David were alive today, I imagine his attorneys might have used a similar defense for his son. Blame belongs to the rich dad, overwhelmed with his own life, who by design or accident taught his kids that they didn't have to be responsible for their actions.
It's easy to think we are loving our children when we let them get away with wrong, but the opposite is true. Oh, how the outcomes for both of these families would have changed had they known, taught, and applied God's Word in their parenting decisions! Is it a guarantee of success? No. I know many wonderful parents whose children have chosen to walk away from their parents' godly instruction. But we aren't responsible for the outcome. As parents, we're accountable for training our children in righteousness. The results are up to God.
Parenting is a tough job, but thank God, we don't have to rely on our own wisdom. God has already given us the best parenting manual in the world — His Word. The more we teach our children to follow in the ways of the Lord, the better equipped they will be to face the challenges ahead and "be successful in all [they] do and wherever [they] go" (1 Kings 2:3).
I'M NOT GONNA LIE ...
Let's be honest here. We can't give our children what we don't have ourselves. We can't train them in discipline and biblical values if we aren't living out those values in our own lives. And the truth is, our kids aren't the only ones who need help navigating the treacherous currents of modern society; we as parents are surrounded by lies too. We're being told that unborn babies have no right to life. We're being told that marriage between a man and a man or between a woman and a woman is not only okay, it's to be celebrated. Deception and unbiblical thinking have become so commonplace that we're afraid to even speak the truth for fear of being discriminated against or being labeled "intolerant."
Excerpted from "Becoming Mom Strong"
Copyright © 2017 Heidi St. John.
Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Introduction Welcome to the Battle of Your Life xi
Chapter 1 Good News-Your Kids Came with a Manual! 1
Chapter 2 History in the Making 17
Chapter 3 Facing Your Giants 31
Chapter 4 Nothing Worthwhile Is Easy 49
Chapter 5 Your Kids Don't Need You to Do It All 69
Chapter 6 When Your Plans Get Turned Upside Down 85
Chapter 7 Don't Give Up! 103
Chapter 8 Into the Light 119
Chapter 9 No-Drama Mama 137
Chapter 10 Big Girls Do Cry 153
Chapter 11 Relax-God's Got This! 171
Chapter 12 The New Normal 185
Chapter 13 Sex, Lies, and Motherboard 201
Chapter 14 It Takes a Village 217
Chapter 15 Unshakable 237
Epilogue No Greater Joy 257
About the Author 267
What People are Saying About This
When I read books on motherhood, I expect to learn and be challenged. But I don’t expect to find a riveting page-turner that I can’t put down. Heidi had me at the subtitle: How to Fight with All That’s in You for Your Family and Your Faith. Our culture at times seems set on obliterating Christ and His Word from the lives and hearts of our children. Heidi exhorts us that we can’t give up in the quest to raise sons and daughters who love Jesus and know His Word. The stakes are too high for our children and our culture. Motherhood is a noble, holy, and difficult callingand not for the faint of heart. But Heidi also acknowledges that every mother is at times “beautifully broken,” weak and weary, or just ready to quit. She gently and powerfully encourages us to bring all of who we are to the foot of the Crosswhere Jesus replaces ashes with beauty, mourning with laughter, and weakness with strength. Motherhood is a high-stakes calling, but the journey leads us to places of redemption, restoration, and power in Christ that are life altering and gloriously redemptive. After you read this book, make sure you pass it on. This is a message every Christian mother needs to hear.
Heidi’s engaging writing style and encouraging words dig in and draw a line in the sand of our modern culture. She is a modern-day Joshua, calling on Christian moms to choose to stand and be counted while she simultaneously reminds us to focus on the trustworthiness and strength of the One we serve. Becoming MomStrong is a gift to all Kingdom women for such a time as this.
Encouragement, wisdom, and relief for those looking for a better way than the world’s definition of motherhood. I wish I could have read this when I first became a mother.
How can we raise children with a strong moral compass if we’ve lost sight of true north ourselves? Never before has a generation of kids had greater need for their moms to “be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power” (Ephesians 6:10, NIV). Without apology, Heidi gracefully tackles some of the most strength-zapping dilemmas we (and our loved ones) are facing todayhard things that no previous generation has walked through before. With my oldest now in junior high, this literary conversa-tion is perfectly timed. I want to do more than have quiet biblical convictions: Heidi is teaching me to stand strong in the direction of true north and to invite my children to boldly join me there.
Heidi’s book Becoming MomStrong is exactly what we moms need right now. With each passing day it gets easier and easier to just let things slide and let our kids raise themselves. The reality is that we only have “such a time as this” to impart wisdom and truth and good and beautiful things into our kids. This is our time, this is our call, and MomStrong is the rallying cry and strategic message we need.
Can you imagine having a toddler in your home for twenty-two years in a row? If that doesn’t qualify you to write a book entitled Becoming MomStrong, I don’t know what does. A mother of seven, Heidi St. John gets the weariness and realities of motherhood. But more importantly, she understands parenting in the strength of Almighty God. This book is a call to stop cowering in a corner and to start rising up in faith. This is a much-needed message for this generation of moms.
Becoming MomStrong is Heidi’s rallying call to moms everywhere to fight for their faith and their families. It’s her call to arms, her battle cry for a generation. Heidi shares her story for the benefit of all her readers. Her story is every mom’s storyfilled with failures, embarrassments, and brokenness. It often seems like a dead end. But like her own journey, that’s not where ours ends. Our redeeming Savior uses it all for His glory. He invites us to stand strong in our weaknesses and to trust Him with all our mess. I want to thank Heidi for encouraging moms to be MomStrong and to raise a generation that knows and praises Him.
Heidi’s words are a gift to moms everywhere. She ignites our passion to stand strong, stay rooted in the only truth that will not falter, and declare the battle cry for the hearts of our children. Becoming MomStrong is our invitation to link arms with other moms who understand that raising children who chase after Jesus isn’t for the faint of heart. Her simple yet poignant encouragement spurs us on even on those most difficult days.
Heidi’s biblical perspective on the joys and challenges of motherhood will encourage you and build up your faith. Her down-to-earth way of communicating makes you feel like you are sitting across the table from a friend. Whether you are a soon-to-be-mom, in the middle of raising little ones, or you are sup-porting a mommy in need, Becoming MomStrong is a must read for you!
Motherhood in a rapidly changing culture that is vying for the hearts and souls of our children is not for the faint of heart. With refreshing honesty about the struggles we face as mothers, Heidi reminds us that the secret to becoming MomStrong has very little to do with us and everything to do with God. She is-sues the passionate call to not give up, but instead to run in His strength as we raise up this next generation!
Motherhood isn’t for wimps. One minute it can bring you joy and the next it can leave you weak in the knees. I love Becoming MomStrong because it points mothers to who they are in Jesus and who He is in them. It offers practical, spiritual guidance for the journey. Moms will be stronger with this book!
This book is more than a book. It’s boot camp for a mom’s soul. Meet your coach: Heidi St. John. She’s also your cheerleader. Heidi will help you discover a strength that you didn’t even know you had. With authenticity, urgency, and a great sense of humor, Heidi brings you into her spiritual gym and reveals what it truly means to be MomStrong.
Refreshingly real and loaded with wisdom, Becoming MomStrong has a much-needed message of hope for moms everywhere!
Becoming MomStrong came across my desk at just the right time. As the tide of an ever-challenging world left me reeling in fear and doubt, Heidi St. John’s gracious sharing of deep truths was exactly what was needed to give me the courage to walk forward. We all need someone to come alongside and remind us that we weren’t meant to mother in fear, but rather we are to be courageous in the face of the many great challenges that present themselves throughout our parenting journeys. Becoming MomStrong is the sounding cry that moms everywhere are looking for. This is a book that extends a hand and reminds us we aren’t alone and that together we are strong.