Jill Savage: What if we looked at interruptions during the day as evidence of being needed and in the ministry of motherhood? What if we recognize that it’s normal for a 2-year old to throw a temper tantrum in the grocery store? (Laughter)
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John Fuller: Yeah, what if? What if you could really enjoy being a mom?
Jim Daly: (Laughter)
John: No matter what happens because you know that life is usually pretty messy. That’s Jill Savage and she’s gonna answer those questions and more on today’s Focus on the Family with your host Focus president Jim Daly. Thanks for joining us, I’m John Fuller.
Jim: Jill has a great message of encouragement for you, mom! And as a mother of five and a grandmother of three, she has the credentials and the experience to draw from. I know you’ll really enjoy this message and if you know of a mom who needs some inspiration, get the book! Jill is the author ofNo More Perfect Moms, which will provide even more advice and encouragement than we can share with you today. Jill has been on this program over a dozen times and she always has a hopeful outlook to share.
John: She is an encourager! And now here’s Jill Savage speaking at a Hearts at Home Conference in Normal, Illinois on Focus on the Family.
Jill: You are not the only mom who yelled at her children yesterday. (Laughter) You are not the only mom who’s trying to blend two families into one and finding it far more difficult than you thought. You are not the only mom who has struggled with infertility. You are not the only mom who has trouble bonding with an adopted child.
You are not the only mom who can’t seem to keep up with the laundry or the house. You are not the only mom who carries the title of “single mom.”You are not the only mom who wants to sometimes run away and you did that this weekend. (Laughter and Applause)
I can’t think of a better place to run away to. I think it is so important for us to understand on this motherhood journey that we are not alone.
And here’s what I’ve come to understand, is that there is community found in authenticity. There is freedom found in authenticity. And I hope that today what we will look at is pursuing that freedom, pursuing that, to understand that when we are able to share not only the joys in lifebut also the challenges in life, that it frees us up to really embrace our real life.
My youngest likes to play what I call the “What If Game.”What if I forget what I’m supposed to say? What if I forget where I’m supposed to go? I like to tell him that he “awfulizes” things in his brain. (Laughter) And I think most of us probably play that game pretty well, too.
But today I want us to play the “What If?” Game from a different angle. I want us to dream a little. I want us to consider some what-if questions, that if we could really find the answer to them, if we could really embrace what they’re all about, we would actually find ourselves experiencing what we often long for in our days, in our journey of motherhood.
So, let’s take a look at these questions and if you’ll just ponder them with me a little bit. The first question I want us to look at is, “what if I gave myself and other people the freedom to fail and make mistakes?”
Many, many years ago I was in the middle of making dinner for my family. I was helping a kid with homework. I was splitting up a fight between two others and all of a sudden, the phone rang. I walked over to the phone. I picked it up and I simply said, “Hello, this is Jill.” And all I heard on the other end of the line was, (Weeping) “Mommy, did you forget me?” (Laughter) I immediately did a nose count, one, two three, four. Uh! One is missing. Oh, my gosh. I looked at the clock. I had completely lost track of time and I couldn’t lie my way out of this one. “Erica, I am so sorry. I did forget you, but I’m gonna jump in the car right now and I’m gonna come and get you. I am so sorry.” “Okay, mom, just hurry, ‘cause I’m the only one here.” (Laughter)
So, as I drove across town, I beat myself up. Oh, I was so mad at myself. How in the world did I do that?
You know what? I messed up.
Every mom has her imperfect moments. Every mom has those moments where guilt creeps in or those moments where guilt just rolls her over. We all make mistakes and so do the people that we live with.
We blow a gasket sometimes. I say at my house, that’s when the ‘mommy monster’ appears. (Laughter) But what if we could respond to those mistakes that either we make, or those that we live with make, with grace and forgiveness and love? What if?
I think it’s hard for us to deal with mistakes because we are surrounded by something that I call the ‘perfection infection’ and it surrounds us everywhere. We are presented with perfection in some way, shape or form.
We log onto Facebook and people are sharing their highlight reels, while you’re dealing with your behind-the-scene reels. Or we go over to Pinterest and we start feeling like we are a failure because we don’t cut our children’s peanut butter and jelly sandwiches into the shape of pretty little animals. (Laughter)
Now don’t get me wrong, I love Facebook and I love Pinterest, but when I look at them through the eyes of the perfection infection, I’m setting myself up for disappointment.
We become bound up in the chains of perfection instead of being free in authenticity. However, if we will expect mistakes and failures to show up on occasion, we won’t be so disappointed when they do and that takes us to another what-if question that I just want us to ponder a little bit.
What if I actually had realistic expectations of myself and others? I recently encountered this on a Saturday morning. I got up in the morning and I had one goal for the day, just one. Here’s what I wanted to accomplish that day.
I was going to go on an archaeologicalexpedition to find my kitchen counter (Laughter), because I lost it a long time ago. And so, I get up that morning. There’s nothing else on my calendar. This is what I’m going to accomplish and so, I began to … to kind of you know, sort things, start to put paper away and before you know it, my teenage son has plopped into a bar stool in the kitchen and life just isn’t working out the way he wants it to.
So, I kinda kept talking to him and trying to, you know, keep goin’ about my business and I finally thought, “No, wait a minute. This isn’t effective…” so I pulled up another bar stool and I sat down and we sorted through the challenges of life. It was probably a 30-minute conversation and finally, he was off. Life was a little bit better since he’d sorted through it and I started to deal with my counter again.
And all of a sudden, the phone rang. It was my friend, my friend who’s got a daughter with an eating disorder and she was struggling. There were tears on the other end of the line and so, I stopped what I was doing and I talked with her and … and we sorted and we even prayed together on the phone and that was another half an hour and I looked up and by that time it was lunch time.
And all of a sudden, I’m finding myself (Sound of Rrrr!) (Laughter) Can you relate? (Laughter) See, that doesn’t even need a word, does it? Rrrr! (Laughter)
But what I’ve come to understand is that motherhood is the ministry of interruptions.And when we can actually embrace that—that that is part of our job as a mom; that’s part of real life—when I can do that, I can recognize people have needs. People are hurting. People will let me down. People will interrupt me 25 times a day. If you have a 2-year-old, 25 times in one minute. (Laughter)
What if we embraced the ministry of interruptions? When the perfection infection closes in on us, we have unrealistic expectations of ourselves and others, however, I don’t think we should lower our expectations. I just think we should change them to better match reality.
When it comes to your kids, expect responsibility. Expect obedience and expect them to fail at it. (Laughter) That’s real life.
We did some research and one of the things that we found is that the brain optimally grows in failure. Now I want you to think about that. When you are dealing with a child who has made a mistake or failure, you just go, “this is about growing your brain.” (Laughter)
Because you see, if … if you expect imperfection, you won’t be disappointed when it actually shows up. And it will show up. I promise you, you will have an opportunity to practice this when you arrive home. (Laughter) I promise you,
If you actually go home and you expect none of your instructions to have been followed (Laughter), you will be so pleasantly surprised! (Laughter)
Think about this. What ifwe looked at our body, those of us that came to motherhood by giving birth and what if we looked at our body andsaw the stretch marks that were acquired during pregnancy and we did not see them as something to despise, but we actually saw them as a badge of honor. Weexpectour body to be imperfect. You see, this is hard for us, because you go to the checkout line in the grocery store and you see likethis headline and the headline says, “Body After Baby Three Months” and you go, “My body doesn’t look like that after baby three years” (Laughter) or in my case, 16 years. (Laughter) Do you know what? I … I’m serious, I … I have often said, you know, I have Cesarean scars that go this way and I have stretch marks that go this way. We could just play tic-tac-toe right here. (Laughter)
But guess what? I’m learning to expect that.What if we looked at interruptions during the day as evidence of being needed and in the ministry of motherhood?What if we understood that all marriages have difficult seasons and it’s okay to ask for help? What if we actually expected that a difficult season would show up? We wouldn’t be so surprised when it did. What if we recognized that it’s normal for a 2-year-old to throw a temper tantrum in the grocery store? (Laughter) What if we did, ‘cause guess what? That’s what 2-year-olds do and it doesn’t matter whether they’re at home or in public.
In those moments, this is how you can kind of embrace imperfection, ‘cause you know how to handle it. You just look up at them and you smile and you go, “We’re working on this.” (Laughter)
But think about this. If we expect life to be imperfect, messy and sometimes challenging, we actually won’t hide our reality from others, because we won’t feel as if we’ve failed.
John: Jill Savage on Focus on the Family and this reminder that you can get her excellent book called No More Perfect Moms when you make a generous gift of any amount to this ministry by calling 800-A-FAMILY. 800-232-6459. Or donate and request the book at focusonthefamily.com/radio. Let’s return now to Jill Savage.
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Jill: And that takes us to the next what-if question. What if I took off my mask and I was honest with others?
I remember the first time I had to face this … this issue and it was when I was standing in front of a moms’ group. This was 20 years ago and my moms’ group was just about 30 moms.We were reading a book together and this particular week the chapter was about marriage. And the week before, my husband and I had started seeing a marriage counselor in one of the first of several difficult seasons in our marriage.
And so, I was really struggling not being honest about what was going on in my life, in my marriage. And so, eventually I went to my husband and I said, “Okay, I’m leading the discussion in my moms’ group tomorrow and honestly, I just … I want to be honest with the fact that we’re in a difficult season of marriage.” But it was kinda complicated by the fact that for most of these women, my husband was their pastor. And I said, “You know, I want to totally respect where you are and … and your role and if you’re uncomfortable with this, then please let me know, but I’d kinda like to just be honest. Would you be okay with that?”
He thought about that for a while. He said, “Okay,I’m okay if you are open and you’re honest with that and I’ll be ready for that if I need to answer any questions.” I said, “Okay.”
And so, that next morning we had our discussion and I decided to be honest and Iwas a little emotional sharing that openly and at that point in my life, I wasn’t real comfortable with a show of emotion in public. Now I’ve just learned to let it all hang out. (Laughter)
But I prepared myself for judgment. I prepared myself for criticism and I did not prepare myself for what happened. This was in the days before e-mail existed, before Facebook existed, so the way that you connected with people was by the phone and all afternoon after my moms’ group, my phone rang off the hook, from other moms that said, “Thank you. I thought I was the only one.”
You see, honestly begets honestyand when we’re honest about our struggles, it draws others out and makes it safe for them to be honest about their struggles. Sometimes I think that it’s very hard for us to be honest though, because we’re trying to help, you know, appear as if we have life all together and we’re wearing our masks and … and without realizing it, when the perfection infection sets in, it causes us to do three things. It causes us to control, compare and criticize.
We control our own PR, so we look good or we feel good about the way we look. We compare ourselves to others and oftentimes what we do is, we compare our insides to other people’s outsides. That’s a dangerous game to play. We criticize. Sometimes if we can feel a little better about ourselves if we criticize someone else.
Let’s take that comparison one for a minute, because I think as mothers, honestly I think as human beings, we all struggle with this comparison thing. I mean, that’s what the whole … if you go into Pinterest with a perfection infection eye, you are gonna be comparing and guess what? You will likely come up short—
But let me see if I can illustrate this for you just a little bit. This is a picture of our family and we had that taken in the fall and it was one of our best family pictures in forever. I mean, we all had good colors on. Everybody was smiling. Nobody was crying.
And when you look at that, instantly no matter whether looking at a picture of somebody or you’re looking at their Facebook post, you compare your insides to their outsides. Dangerous game to play. So, let me … let me take some of that away. Let me share with you some insides, some insides.
This was our daughter Anne and her husband, Matt and their kids—cutest grandkids in the whole wide world, right (Laughter), Landon and Rilyn. But they had their share of struggles.
Matt and Anne has been very open about the fact that they have seen a counselor to help sort out their priorities, to find balance in their life. And little Landon there, he looks real healthy, but when he was 4-months-old, he was labeled “failure to thrive.” And all of a sudden, they had to figure out what in the world was going on?
So, when you put the insides to match the outsides, we have a better picture and then we can make a better comparison, can’t we? And so, when you and I share our insides with one another, what we’re actually doing is that we are making it safe for them.
When we share our imperfect mom stories, it provides relief.
Last year for those of you that were here, I stood on this stage and I shared with you that it was the darkest season of my entire life, because my husband was going through a very difficult season in his life. He was just in the pit of despair and he left.
And I wrote a very honest blog post. Some of you may remember the blog post that I actually wrote and … and it broke my heart to be able to do that, but you know what I did after I posted that? I slept. I slept for the first time in four days. I needed the relief of that honesty and not only that, but God began to open up doors where He was able to use the difficult season of my life to encourage others in difficult seasons, as well. And I’m happy to tell you that my husband returned home in May of last year and he is with me at the conference this year. (Applause and Cheers) God has taught both of us a lot over the last year. Was it scary being honest about that? Yes! Was it freeing to be honest about that? Absolutely.
And here’s our last question, question number four, what if I replaced ‘being perfect’ with ‘being perfected’?
Now what do I mean by that? What I’ve learned is that the imperfect parts of our life can be counterbalanced by a perfect God who longs to shine His light through the cracks in our lives. He longs to do that. He will do His best work through your imperfections if you’ll let Him.
Remember that day when I forgot Erica at school? When I pulled up to the curb, she got in the car and I immediately gave her a hug and I said, “Erica, I am so sorry.Will you please forgive me?” And in that moment, God used my imperfections to teach my daughter aboutasking for forgiveness. He used my imperfections to help my daughter understand that nobody’s perfect and we all have to deal with letting people down sometimes. He taught her how to give forgiveness in that moment. It’s so important for us to understand that we can never be perfect, but we can embrace that God is perfecting us.
The Bible tells us that we’re to become more like Jesus. Now we will never be perfect like He is until we’re not in this world anymore, but we will become more like Him and that’s what being perfected is all about.
I can truly say that I am a far more compassionate person than I was 28 years ago when I became a mom. I have a better sense of empathy. I am better to tune into my emotions and I’m better to tune into my children’s emotions since I became a mom and I have allowed God to perfect me in those difficult seasons of life.
But here’s how it really can impact us. If we’re pursuing perfect, we’re trying to be perfect and imperfect happens, then anger, shame, it all balls up inside of us.
However, if we’re pursuing being perfected and the perfecting process, we learn to respond toourimperfections with courage, confidence, grace and humility. And if we are embracing the reality that our husband, our children, our neighbors, our friends, our coworkersare in the perfecting process as well, then we can respond totheirimperfections with love, grace and forgiveness, because we’re expecting that to happen, because we embrace our imperfections and we embrace that God is growing us.
And I believe these Christ-like responses are the antidotes to the perfection infection. They allow for failure. They break the chains of unrealistic expectations. They embrace authenticity. They acknowledge that we’re all in the perfecting process. So, I’ll ask you once again. What if I gave myself and others the freedom to fail or make mistakes? What if I actually had realistic expectations of myself and others? What if I took off my mask and I was honest with others? And what if I replaced being perfect with being perfected?
I believe that you and I, if we can really do that, then we will begin to find contentment. We would embrace who we are instead of being critical of who we aren’t. We would embrace who our children are instead of pre … being critical in who they aren’t.
I believe that we would discover that we’re not as alone as we think we are. I think we’d learn to love our real self, our real bodies, our real children, our real husbands, our real life. And then more than anything, I think we would find contentment and freedom—freedom. The freedom found in authenticity–and, if we are all about the perfecting process, the freedom found in Jesus Christ.
John: Today on Focus on the Family, we’ve been hearing encouragement for moms from Jill Savage and even though the message is for moms, Jim, all of us can apply something from this message.
Jim: Yeah, it’s so true, John, and I really appreciate her point that if we’re striving for perfection, we’re gonna be unhappy, frustrated, even angry. But if we can focus on being real with our family and friends, and pursuing that perfecting process in our relationship with Christ, we’re gonna be living the good life. And let me just quickly remind you that Focus on the Family is here for you, to help you in your marriage and in your parenting. In fact, we’ve developed a free Parenting Assessment Tool that you can access on our website. And when you get in touch with us, please donate generously and we’ll send you Jill Savage’s book,No More Perfect Momsfor a donation of any amount.
John: And Jim, it’s a great subtitle for the book: Learn to Love Your Real Life. So, please, get a copy of this book from us when you do, you’re helping support the work of this family ministry. Our number is 800-A-FAMILY. 800-232-6459 or you can donate and find that book at focusonthefamily.com/radio.
By the way, if you enjoyed today’s program, please, tell a friend how to listen in either on the radio or through the website or our mobile app.
Next time, we’re going to take you beyond the headlines to how God is working in the Middle East.
Tom Doyle: Satan does not like that Muslims, and Jews for that matter, are coming to faith in Christ in record numbers. He wants to stop it. But the persecution doesn’t stop the church, it actually accelerates the growth.
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