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Focus on the Family Broadcast

Rediscovering Your Joy in Motherhood (Part 1 of 2)

Rediscovering Your Joy in Motherhood (Part 1 of 2)

Ashley Willis aims to encourage moms to hold tight to the peace of God through every moment of parenting. She introduces four “peace pirates” that steal joy and how to effectively combat them. (Part 1 of 2)
Original Air Date: September 6, 2022

John Fuller: Imagine what it’s like to sail on the open sea, the wind, the waves, the sunshine, the tranquility of it all. It sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? But suddenly, without warning, your calm and peaceful moment is shattered by chaos. The ship you were sailing on is under attack by pirates. It’s chaotic; it’s awful. The scenario is very similar to what can happen to you almost every day if you’re a mom, especially during those early childhood years. Thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family with Jim Daly. We’re gonna be sharing some encouragement and hope, especially for young moms. And dads, we’d recommend you hang around as well because a mom with young children needs all the support she can get. Uh, thanks for joining us, I’m John Fuller, and your host is Focus president and author, Jim Daly.

Jim Daly: John, that was impressive.

John: (laughs)

Jim: Let me applaud that. Wow.

Ashley Willis: (laughs)

John: Drama. Yeah.

Jim: I haven’t heard you do the drama.

John: Well, we’ll have to look for opportunities like that.

Jim: (laughs) Yeah, there we go.

John: It was inspired by memories of raising small children and what my wife was like when I got home.

Jim: Well, uh (laughs).

Ashley: (laughs)

John: (laughs)

Jim: We’ll do that show a different time.

John: Okay.

Jim: But today, we’re talking about peace pirates. This is a great concept. And, uh, you know, I wasn’t the pirate. I was more like Batman as a kid, running around, saving-

John: I enj-

Jim: … the neighbor, but-

John: I identified with him, too.

Jim: (laughs)

John: I don’t know why.

Jim: I used a towel and a clothespin. (laughs)

John: (laughs)

Ashley: (laughs)

John: Many boys did.

Jim: We didn’t have a lot of money, but, uh, it was so much fun. But, uh, what you’re describing, uh, can be a challenging season for moms and dads who are caring for young children. It is chaos. It is that storm, and the winds and the waves crashing into the, the ship of your family. And today, we’re gonna talk with a wonderful guest about some of those observations and how to embrace the moment, and perhaps even calm the storm.

John: Yeah, we’re, uh, really happy to have Ashley Willis back with us again here in the studio. Uh, she was here a few months ago with her husband, Dave, uh, describing how you can have a stronger, healthier marriage even during storms. And, uh, today, we’re gonna be hearing more about a book she wrote. It’s got a great title, Peace Pirates: Conquering the Beliefs and Behaviors that Steal Your Treasure in Motherhood. And you can find out more when you call us, 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY, or stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.

Jim: Ashley, welcome back to Focus.

Ashley Willis: Thank you. I just love being here with you guys.

Jim: Now, did you realize this was gonna be an intervention for John and his pirate-

John: (laughs)

Ashley: (laughs)

Jim: … uh, his pirate desires?

John: We did get the pirates off the ship.

Jim: (laughs)

John: It’s all good now.

Ashley: That’s right.

Jim: That was impre-… I’m still impressed by that.

Ashley: I know, I was impressed, too. It was great.

Jim: Ashley, uh, let’s get into it. You’re a mother of four boys ages 7 to 17.

Ashley: Yes.

Jim: Moms listening just went, “Wow.”

Ashley: (laughs)

Jim: You’re, like, esteemed among all women.

Ashley: Oh, goodness.

Jim: Four boys of those ages. We have two.

Ashley: Mm-hmm.

Jim: And, uh, but I mean, it, it is busy.

Ashley: Yes.

Jim: And I’m sure households with girls are busy, too. Don’t let me-

Ashley: Absolutely.

Jim: fool anyone. Um, in that regard, um, with that business, how do you continue to love your children in that way that you want to, that you know they need to be loved-

Ashley: Yes.

Jim: with all that going on; I mean with the runny noses, with the messes, with the cleanup, with the loads of laundry, everything that’s going on no matter how you and Dave divide those responsibilities. But-

Ashley: Right.

Jim: man, how do you keep the ship moving in the right direction toward a north star?

Ashley: Oh, my goodness. I think it just takes, it takes a lot of intentionality and a lot of monitoring and adjusting. If there’s anything I’ve learned, you know, in being a mom for 17 years now, that’s what I’ve… I’ve learned that I never really figure it out.

Jim: It’s pretty amazing when you say it that way: being a mom for 17 years.

Ashley: I know. It really… I, I’m still, like, have I really been a mom that long? But that’s, that’s how long I’ve been a mom, and-

Jim: Yeah, you’re not that old by the way. (laughs)

Ashley: Oh, good gosh. I’ll take it, I’ll take it. But I’m telling you, the- these kids, they, they’ve taught me so much because just when I think and just when Dave, my husband, thinks, like, “Oh, we’ve got this parenting thing down,” there’s a new season. Maybe we add an additional child to the family, something else changes. You know, there… Life will throw a lot of things your way, and so there is a lot of chaos. And I’ve, you know, I kinda for a big portion of my life believed the lie that chaos and that many of us believe. I think this is kind of what our culture believes that really, you cannot have peace if there’s any kind of chaos in your life. Like, the only time you can really have peace as a family, as a mom, as a dad is when there’s, like, your circumstances are calm and everything is going your way, you’re achieving those dreams you set out, the kids are always behaving. Like, that, that was my belief. And what I found, gosh, in all the years being a mother is, man, if that’s the definition, how in the world can I ever experience God’s peace? And so I set out on this journey to really discover, you know, how can I have peace in motherhood because I don’t want to just begrudgingly get through motherhood and just survive it. I want to actually thrive, and I want to truly enjoy my kids. And so that’s why I talk about these things I call peace pirates, these things that are kind of attacking my peace, ’cause that’s what pirates want to do. They want to steal from you; they want to make you feel, you know, like everything’s topsy-turvy. And there are things in our life that do this, but in the book, I describe, you know, how we can really combat that. And it really starts first by understanding what God’s peace really is.

Jim: Well, yes. It, it’s interesting. I don’t know why we have this boat metaphor going, but we do-

Ashley: Yes. (laughs)

Jim: … with the pirate theme.

Ashley: Yes.

Jim: But, you know, Jesus himself in the storm.

Ashley: Exactly.

Jim: He was asleep.

Ashley: Exactly.

Jim: And the disciples weren’t really happy about that I don’t think. They didn’t seem to expre-… Like, how can he sleep through this?

John: Hm.

Ashley: Mm-hmm.

Jim: Right? And then he kinda wakes up and says, “Hey, you guys got your attention on the wrong thing.”

Ashley: Exactly.

Jim: Isn’t that amazing?

Ashley: It is amazing.

Jim: I mean, that is the analogy.

Ashley: It is, and I, and I love that story, too, because, you know, he’s recorded as saying peace, be still. And he does calm the waters. He does calm those chaotic circumstances really to kind of teach the disciples a lesson in that they can depend on him. But he also in essence is telling us, “Listen, even when the waters are going crazy, if you can just trust, trust in the Lord, trust that he still sees it all, that he’s still with you, you can actually have peace in the midst of the storm.” I actually did a Hebrew word study on the word peace. Many people know it’s shalom, you know, in the Hebrew. You go to Israel today, instead of just saying hello, they’re gonna actually say shalom, which actually means have God’s peace. And when you look at the deeper meaning of this and the earliest way that the Hebrews wrote this word to each other, the four symbols that make up the word shalom actually carry this definition. It means breaking the authority established by chaos.

Jim: Wow.

John: Hm.

Ashley: I know.

Jim: Yeah.

Ashley: And it… When I set out to write this book, I didn’t even know that definition yet. But when I looked at it, I just, it, it just blew my mind because I thought, “Oh, my goodness. That’s what God wants us to have.”

Jim: Yeah.

Ashley: He wants us to have his peace, and it means being under his authority, not the authority of whatever chaos is going on in our life, not the authority of a wayward teenager, not the authority of a t- you know, the tantrums of a toddler, not the authority of a financial situation that’s just making us feel like we can’t get a grip on life. You know, we have to make sure that we put all of those things under God’s authority by surrendering them to him and also trusting him. And I mean, really, having peace in the midst of chaos has a lot to do with trust.

Jim: We do a series with Ray Vander Laan called That the World May Know, and he’s a Jewish scholar.

Ashley: Yes.

Jim: And he adds to that, too. He says when sin entered the world, chaos entered the world.

Ashley: Yes.

Jim: Isn’t that a great way to look at that?

Ashley: Absolutely.

Jim: And that, that’s what, you know, that’s what batters our ship every day-

John: Mm-hmm.

Ashley: Right.

Jim: … is the chaos of this world.

Ashley: It is.

Jim: Um, you know, keeping that trend of the boat metaphor, you had a kayak story-

Ashley: (laughs)

Jim: … (laughs) in the book that was… I mean, first of all, it’s hilarious, but you start it. I’m gonna jump in and say something. You go ahead.

Ashley: Sure. All right. Well when I was pregnant with our fourth boy, I was about 30 weeks pregnant. So I had, you know, two elementary schoolers at the time, and I think our third was probably two or three years old. I decided it was a good idea for us to go and do this big kayak trip, you know, which-

Jim: Here’s the interruption. What were you thinking? (laughs)

Ashley: Oh, my gosh. Jim, I don’t know.

Jim: 30 weeks pregnant.

John: (laughs)

Ashley: Yes.

Jim: What were you-

Ashley: All right.

Jim: Was this, like, a pregnant thing?

Ashley: It was a pregnancy thing.

Jim: Did you go, “Oh, let’s go for this kayak.”

Ashley: It really was. Well, we were at-

Jim: How did you even, like, comfortably get in the thing?

Ashley: I don’t even know.

Jim: (laughs)

Ashley: Like, I look back on this, ’cause I had to have on, you know, a, a-

Jim: A vest. Yeah.

Ashley: … a vest and everything. And I’m like, “How did this even happen?”

Jim: (laughs)

Ashley: But we were on a little family stroll by the Savannah River in our town of Augusta, Georgia, and I’d always wanted to do the kayaks. And I saw them, and I had that pregnancy brain moment. And I was like, “This is the moment. It’s a beautiful day. It’s not too hot. Let’s do this.” And my sweet husband looked at me probably like I was crazy, but was like, “If you’re in for it, I guess I am, too.” So we proceed to go on this kayak trip. And as you can imagine, we have two separate kayaks. Dave’s, you know, in one kayak with, with two kids, and I think I’m in one with our toddler.

Jim: (laughs)

Ashley: And our toddler-

Jim: You make it even better.

Ashley: No, it is insane. So our toddler starts being just nuts. Like, he’s moving the kayak, and I, of course, don’t have the mobility that I would usually have ’cause I’m 30 weeks pregnant. And so we are almost tipping, and I, I’m very calmly trying to tell him to stop. But then, I’m all out. Like, I get to the point where I’m yelling, and I’m like, “Stop it. We’re gonna tip.” And he didn’t know how to swim, and I didn’t know what my buoyancy was gonna be like. And I notice out of the corner of my eye, and Dave and I, too, are trying to communicate, you know, from kayak to kayak down this river. I notice this young couple, like, young married couple just strolling and looking at us, like, gawking, like, “What’s going on with that crazy mom?”

Jim: “Is that our future?” (laughs)

Ashley: Um, seriously. I told Dave, I said, “We were birth control that day.”

Jim: (laughs)

Ashley: Like, we legit were birth control. And, um, and they’re just gawking at us like, “What is going on?” And we, we made it, and it ended up that it was so bad with the toddler at the time, ’cause he just di- you know, he was just-

Jim: Sure. Being a toddler. (laughs)

Ashley: just being a toddler, exactly. So Dave tethered our kayaks together, and he alone with our, our older boys, he was just the man in that moment; he was. But he, uh, with our older boys’ help kind of, like, just got us to the finish line. And then a bus with the kayak, the kayak company came to get us, ’cause I’m like there is no way we’re going back. I mean, it was just-

Jim: Yeah.

Ashley: It was nuts. And I think, you know, one lesson I learned is you have to set yourself up to win. Like, you don’t set yourself up to fail, and I think, again, I wasn’t looking at what was really required to do this two-hour kayak trek. But also, I just learned in that moment, too, just, just how that is really a metaphor for a lot of the gears of raising kids.

Jim: Yeah.

Ashley: Because it is so topsy-turvy, and they don’t always cooperate. And, you know, you can have the best laid plans, and they don’t go your way. But what I was trying to do kind of in those years of studying peace and trying to really be the best mom I could be was, like, how do I have good ex- you know, healthy expectations but also when it doesn’t go my way, how can I still appreciate this gift of motherhood, because I want to appreciate it. I want, I want to just relish these years because they go by so fast.

Jim: You stress for moms not to miss the moments.

Ashley: Mm-hmm.

Jim: I mean, not to get so distracted by those chaotic things that you’re, you’re missing the things that count.

Ashley: Right.

Jim: I, I guess the question on behalf of moms is, “Okay, how do you discern when that moment is, and I don’t want to miss that moment, and what are the moments I can just forget?”

Ashley: Right. (laughs)

John: Hm.

Ashley: Well, I do think… I’m glad you mentioned that there are moments that you want to forget. And I, I think that we’re, you know, we’re human begins. We’re not perfect. God doesn’t expect us to be perfect parents. He’s the only perfect parent, and I actually take great comfort in that. Like, I look at the stories of, uh, Jesus’s parents. I mean, they lost him for three days. I’m like, man, if that’s in the word, like, God, God understands that, as parents, we get stressed out, and he just puts that story in there for good measure to let us know, “Hey, there’re not perfect parents.” So I, I take great comfort in that. But I think that even with knowing that I think it’s really important that when we blow it, we do say we’re sorry. Our kids need to see us having a repentant heart. Like, when we blow it, just owning that and saying we’re sorry. But then I think that not staying in the thick of whatever happened too long and finding the humor in it. And that’s something that my husband, Dave, has, has just helped me so much. I mean, he’s so good at finding the humor at the right moment. I mean, it has to be at the right moment, ’cause it can definitely not go so well.

Jim: (laughs) That could backfire.

John: Yeah.

Ashley: That can backfire real fast. But, like, as a family, like, even this kayak trip for example, you know, once we got in the car and I’m feeling like a total failure as a mom, like, ’cause I just lost my mind out there on the water. And I was just like, “Man, this was supposed to be a good moment. Now, it’s just gonna be this bad memory.” And I think one of our older boys was like, “Mom, that was so awesome. You went crazy.”

Jim: (laughs)

John: (laughs)

Ashley: And, and, you know, and he’s like, “And those people were staring at us. It was so funny.” And I, like, was so mad at first, but then I w- I just started laughing. And I was just like, “Guys, you’re right. I am so sorry.”

Jim: Oh, that’s good.

Ashley: I said, “I’m so sorry I lost my temper. Hopefully, we can look back on this and laugh.” And let me tell you, this was many years ago, we have laughed and laughed over this story. And so sometimes, you know, those worst moments can become, like, just, it can give you some levity just in the-

Jim: Yeah.

Ashley: in the day-to-day life. And so we, we actually… That has become one of our favorite stories at, at my, um, expense. But yes.

Jim: Yeah, no. But it’s good. It’s one of those markers.

Ashley: Yes (laughs).

Jim: And it’s great for your kids. Those are great lessons.

Ashley: Yes.

Jim: When they can remember it like that-

Ashley: Mm-hmm.

Jim: see it illustrated, and so good of you to come back and talk about your failures with your kids.

Ashley: (laughs)

Jim: No, seriously.

Ashley: Well, we all fail, right? We all fail sometimes.

Jim: Yeah, absolutely. Uh, you’ve identified four peace pirates-

Ashley: Yes.

Jim: these things that rob our joy and rob us of the moment.

Ashley: Mm-hmm.

Jim: Uh, what are they?

Ashley: All right. They are mommy martyrdom, which is a big one.

Jim: What?

Ashley: And we can talk a little about that if you want.

Jim: Let, yeah, let’s go ahead and let’s hit it.

Ashley: All right. So this is one where… I remember when I was writing this book and explaining it to my friends, just kind of seeing what they thought about this, uh, it was one of the… At first as mothers, we’re like, “We don’t do that.” But I actually, I based these four peace pirates on an actual survey that I did with 300 moms.

Jim: Okay.

Ashley: Because I wanted to see what are the tendencies. Is it just my opinion, or is this a tendency for most mothers? And this from mothers of all walks of life with all different-aged kids, married and unmarried. So-

Jim: And this is mommy martyrdom.

Ashley: Yes.

Jim: So what does that mean?

Ashley: This was a big one. So mommy martyrdom is basically when we end up making our kids an idol, and we actually kinda neglect ourselves to the point of, like, being a martyr, that we are, are kind of hanging on the cross for our kids, so to speak, right? And-

Jim: So how do you know if you’re doing that?

Ashley: Well, like you’re never getting the amount of sleep you need, ever. And it’s not because you can’t because it’s a crazy season or whatever, but because you’re just, it’s always for the kids.

Jim: You’re choosing-

Ashley: You’re choosing-

Jim: those things.

Ashley: Exactly. You’re neglecting yourself. If your marriage is always on the back burner. If you’re a married person, and it’s always like, “But the kids, but the kids,” is they become like your, your excuse all time, okay?

Jim: Yeah, yup.

Ashley: And you, and you tell yourself it’s because the kids that we have a bad marriage, but really, you look at your spouse and you’re like, “It’s just because we haven’t talked in so many years about anything but the kids.”

Jim: You’re not investing.

John: Hm.

Jim: Yeah.

Ashley: Right. And you’re not investing the time. I think, too, uh, just when it’s really all of your thoughts, okay, and I know this is gonna step on some toes, but literally, all your thoughts are surrounding your kids and to the point of being fearful of the future to the point of anxiety.

Jim: Hm.

Ashley: It, it’s making your kids an idol, and they’re not supposed to be God in our life.

Jim: I-

Ashley: And I think that so many times, they become that.

Jim: Well, you, you’re describing what many dis- talk about, which a child-centric family as opposed to a-

Ashley: Yes.

Jim: marriage-centric family-

Ashley: Exactly.

Jim: with kids in the home.

Ashley: Exactly.

Jim: So much better way to describe it.

Ashley: It is.

John: Yeah. We’re talking with Ashley Willis today on Focus on the Family. Your host is Jim Daly. And, uh, Ashley’s book is available from us here at the ministry. It’s called Peace Pirates: Conquering the Beliefs and Behaviors that Steal Your Treasure in Motherhood. Uh, we do recommend you pick up a copy. Uh, we’ve got details for you when you call 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY, or stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.

Jim: Okay. So that’s mommy martyrdom, and I-

Ashley: Yes.

Jim: I think a lot of moms will identify with that. They’re trying to do the best job they can do.

Ashley: Absolutely.

Jim: But there is a point at which you need to reach a better equilibrium.

John: Hm.

Ashley: Right.

Jim: Is that a fair way to say that?

Ashley: That’s a great way to say it, because I do think sometimes with mothers in particular, that… We see it more with moms than with dads, and that’s why I talk about it.

Jim: Yes, pour out, pour out, pour out-

Ashley: It is.

Jim: pour out.

Ashley: It is, and we want, we so bad want to be good moms.

Jim: Yeah.

Ashley: We want to lead our kids in the right way. But I think sometimes we end up trying to, to live vicariously through them sometimes and fulfill parts of our life that the child is not even supposed to fill. That’s where we see codependent relationships that, that really don’t, not only don’t serve us well, but really set our kids up for issues later on.

Jim: Sure.

Ashley: And so it’s important in this book. I say this because I, myself, have struggled with each and every one of those peace pirates.

Jim: Yes, of course.

Ashley: But we, we’ve got to make sure that, that we have God first, and that if we’re married, then our marriage, then our children. We have to keep things in-

Jim: Yeah.

Ashley: in biblical alignment and just not, not put u-… It’s really, it’s putting a lot of pressure on ourselves, but also on our children.

Jim: Yeah.

Ashley: Because we’re looking at them to just, to be our whole life. And yes, we, as mothers, make sacrifices for our kids. Absolutely. We, as parents, do. This is part of being a parent. But we’re not supposed to put them as an idol where we’re just living for them and sacrificing everything for them to the point of neglect for ourselves.

Jim: Yeah. That’s a whole book right there.

Ashley: Yes, yes.

Jim: Okay, number two.

Ashley: All right. Number two: clinching control is a big peace pirate where, and this is one I’ve struggled with so much. It’s messed with me so much just trying to control our children. Now on one aspect, we have to discipline our kids. We need to have expectations for our children. You know, there needs to be some semblance of control, but I do think that sometimes when it comes to control, and my husband said it so good this way, where, where this becomes an issue is when our kids are doing well, we pat ourselves on the back and we take all that credit.

Jim: Aren’t we good? (laughs)

Ashley: Oh, we’re just, we are just doing a great job, you know? Good job, mom and dad. But then when they’re doing bad, we feel like complete and total failures, and we take on all of that failure.

Jim: Hm.

Ashley: And really, it’s somewhere in the middle of all this, right? You know, God wired our kids each differently.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Ashley: They’re gonna have some things that it’s really easy to teach them and to guide them and to lead them, and other things, they’re gonna really rebel. They’re gonna really test us. And so as parents, we’re constantly monitoring and adjusting and really looking at kind of how healthy our standards are that it’s not control for making us look good, you know? And I really struggled with this where I’d be out in public. I’d have these four ram- rambunctious boys, and they’d be maybe a little louder than they needed to be. I would feel like they’re embarrassing me.

Jim: Right.

Ashley: Like, they’re embarrassing me. And I’d take that on, and I would just really wrestle with that. And it wasn’t necessarily about teaching them proper etiquette so to speak, but it was the reflection on me.

Jim: Hm.

Ashley: And I-

Jim: We all identify with that-

Ashley: Exactly.

Jim: as parents.

Ashley: I mean, ex-… I think dads, you know, dads can identify with this, too, but I really wrestled with that for a number of years.

Jim: Yeah.

Ashley: It was like do I want, am I really teaching them these things based on, you know, following the Lord and their character and the things that are, that last with them?

Jim: Yeah.

Ashley: Or is it just to make me look good, because I was actually reminded of this. We had some neighbor kids that on the surface were very polite, said their ma’ams and sirs, but then I would witness them, ’cause they were over at our house a lot, and behind closed doors, there was this major character issues. But on the surface, the parents loved all the ma’ams and sirs, they loved the pats on the back like, “Oh, your kids are so-

Jim: Yup.

Ashley: polite.” And I told my husband. I said, “Listen…” I guess on, on the one hand, gosh, I would love it if my kids were always saying the right thing and we were getting pats on the back, but on the other, it really is about character. I don’t want them to be great on the surface and us getting all these accolades, but really in their heart, it’s just not, it’s not flourishing-

Jim: Yeah.

Ashley: and it’s all for show. We want to raise kids where it goes deep-

Jim: Yeah.

Ashley: where they really are living a life that is pleasing to the Lord, and not, not just to please mom and dad. I mean, that’s the goal is they want, we want them to please the Lord.

Jim: Well, and another way of saying that, too, is like you’re, you’re trying to shape behavior rather than shape the heart.

Ashley: Yes, absolutely.

Jim: And I think we in the Christian households, um, you know, we lean so heavily on the behavior. And that’s important.

Ashley: Yes, yes.

Jim: Don’t mishear me, but we’ve got to shape the heart-

Ashley: Right.

Jim: because the right behavior will flow from the right heart.

Ashley: Exactly.

Jim: And sometimes, yeah, kids can fool you by-

Ashley: Mm-hmm.

Jim: providing the right behavior without having the right heart.

Ashley: Yes.

Jim: Okay, number three and four.

Ashley: All right. So excessive expectations. We talk a lot about expectations in this book, and they all inter-relate ’cause, you know, I mentioned expectations with clinch and control. But really, I think that we have to take an assessment of what kind of expectations do we have for our children, and also what kind of expectations are we allowing to be placed on us. And this is where that definition, that real definition of God’s peace, shalom, comes in because I think sometimes, we allow ourselves to be ruled by expectations, whether on us or the ones that we feel are being fulfilled or unfulfilled by our children or even our spouse.

Jim: Right.

Ashley: And so, you know, a lot of times, in, in, in the research that I’ve been doing, I found this, this huge, just, issue of expectation. It was nobody’s ever listening to me, or they’re never quite doing it that way, or that we maybe even put on ourself.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Ashley: Like, sometimes we just have these unrealistic expectations for ourself as a mother, or we think God’s putting on us somehow, and so we kind of go around half-hearted feeling like we’re failing, everybody’s failing, and it’s just bad. Like, I remember Dave early in parenting, especially when we had multiple kids, he was like, “Sweetie, you are letting this just rule your day.” It’s like we are living or dying by whether or not these certain expectations were fulfilled.” He’s like, “We’ve got to find a way to have peace in this. Like, we’ve got to, we need to have good standards for our children. We absolutely do, and we have to decide that as a family, as a couple, and, uh, make sure they understand that. But we also have to make sure is this excessive or is this realistic?

Jim: Yeah.

Ashley: Is this something that is a healthy expectation? And if so, have I actually told them, you know, how they can meet this expectation?

Jim: Yeah.

Ashley: Or am I allowing, am, am I allowing maybe other things to shape my expectations that aren’t even really one of my ideals that I feel like is part of our family? I think it’s just really good to take that self-assessment.

Jim: Yeah, and it’s good to challenge your expectations.

Ashley: Mm-hmm.

Jim: Right?

Ashley: Absolutely.

Jim: And where the, where the source of that is coming from.

Ashley: Right.

Jim: Number four?

Ashley: And that really leads to number four. So this is a big one in our social media-driven world, and that’s comparison chaos.

Jim: Yeah.

Ashley: I think every mom out there, there’s whole books on this, uh, you know, we deal with comparison whether it’s looking at Instagram or just talking to your friends, maybe even your own family. Like, you feel like in my family, it was always this way, and now my family looks this way. Like, uh, just constantly feeling like you’re not meeting the mark because of comparison, not because you’re actually, you know, talking to your spouse and saying, “Okay, what does God want our l- family to look like,” because every family’s slightly different-

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Ashley: and really having peace in that. And I know for me personally, I mean, sometimes I just have to put down, you know, I have to put down the phone because we have to realize we’re all showing our own highlight reels on there. Like, I didn’t take picture of my kayak fiasco-

Jim: (laughs)

Ashley: and everything I said to my child and plaster it on social media because that’s, like, my, one of my, you know, not great moments.

Jim: (laughs) That’s right.

Ashley: But, but I’m gonna put, like, the day that the kid gets the award at school or, you know, has the perfect picture where everybody’s smiling at the camera, which is literally a miracle. That’s what I’m putting online, you know? And actually, I was reminded about this by my child. When we were going to an award ceremony, it was our second child, Connor, who didn’t… He’s a great kid but doesn’t always get academic awards. He’s very smart, but not, school’s not really his-

Jim: Yeah.

Ashley: his place. He, he doesn’t love it. And so he gets this invitation, and I was talking to my husband. I was like, “Oh, my gosh. It’s 5th grade. He’s getting an award, finally.”

Jim: (laughs)

Ashley: And so we go. I mean, we’re all dressed up. Well, they finally get to the end of the ceremony, and I, uh, actually right before the end, and it was where I believe he was gonna get awarded. And I’m waiting and I’m waiting, and it turns out it was just like a “You were part of this project award,” okay?

Jim: (laughs)

Ashley: Like, participation. And so, and I, I looked at my husband. I said, “He is gonna be so disappointed. He thought he was getting something, some kind of award that, like, mattered, you know?” And I’m like, “And it’s just a partic-…” It’s like an honorable mention. Like, you know, we went to all this, built it up, and here’s this. Well, the next award was the biggest award of the day, and it was like the character award or something like that. And, uh, they ended up announcing one of his best friends, Claire, gets the character award. And I see my son, Connor, after he received his participation award-

Jim: (laughs)

Ashley: he stands up and proceeds to clap for his friend, Claire.

Jim: Yeah.

Ashley: And looks back at me and has such a, just joy all over his face.

Jim: Hm.

Ashley: And then after they dismissed, he ran up to me and he said, “Mom, can you take a picture with Claire? She got the biggest award of the 5th grade. Isn’t that awesome?”

Jim: (laughs) That’s good.

Ashley: And I was like, “I know. I’m so proud of Claire.” Well, when he walked off with Claire, we took the picture, and then he’s mainly with his friends. I looked over at my husband, and I said, “I can’t believe that my own child understands awards and what really matters better than me.”

Jim: Yeah.

Ashley: Here I am as the mother, again, wanting to pay myself on the back because of whatever, and, and he’s over here having such joy to cheer on his friend. And that’s, to me, that was better than any award, because my child could cheer on his friend, you know?

Jim: Yeah.

Ashley: And it just taught me. I just thought, “Man, I can’t lose sight of those moments,” because you know, they may or may not get awards. Awards are great, but we have to really look for those, those signs of, of them growing in their character.

John: What an amazing story from our guest, Ashley Willis, sharing from her book, Peace Pirates: Conquering the Beliefs and Behaviors that Steal Your Treasure in Motherhood. And we’ll encourage you to get a copy of it from us here at Focus on the Family. Donate today, and we’ll send that book to you. Our number is 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY. 800-232-6459, or stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.

Jim: John, I love that story that Ashley told. It speaks to an issue that all parents struggle with I think, and I think it’s fair to say we all can be guilty of comparison.

John: Mm-hmm.

Jim: It’s easy to look at how other couples are parenting or the accomplishments their kids are attaining, and we make that comparison, you know? They’re doing better than I am. And when we do that, we miss the opportunity to recognize where our kids are succeeding and how their character’s growing. We have to remember that every family is different, just like a fingerprint. So just, uh, as Ashley said, we have to ask God what he wants our family to look like.

John: Yeah, that’s good, Jim. Uh, w- and we have these programs like today so that we can come alongside parents who are struggling in some sort of way.

Jim: Uh, John, that reminds me of a mom who recently wrote to us and said, “I have two teen boys.” I can relate to that.

John: Mm-hmm.

Jim: Uh, “13 and 16, and my husband and I are having a hard time teaching them to become responsible, respectful adults, and to start letting go and giving them more freedom to make their own choices and mistakes. Your programs give me hope and helps me to know I’m not the only parent struggling with these issues.” Well first of all, if you have teen boys, all of us struggle with these issues.

John: Right.

Jim: And I just love it, because that’s the mission of Focus on the Family. It’s why we’re here, to help parents, uh, and to give them hope for the future. That’s why we’re telling you about resources like Ashley’s book, Peace Pirates: Conquering the Beliefs and Behaviors that Steal Your Treasure in Motherhood. And if you can make a gift of any amount to Focus on the Family to help us with ministry, we’ll send this book right out to you as our way of saying thank you for partnering with us to help a, a broader swath of people find that joy-

John: Mm-hmm.

Jim: in their parenting journey. We also have tons of online resources available for you. Focus is a treasure trove of help, and I hope you’ll tap us. And, uh, just call us or get a hold of us.

John: Yeah, our number is 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY. And we really do want to help equip your family in any way we can. So donate and get Ashley’s book, Peace Pirates, when you call 800-232-6459, or stop by focusonthefamiy.com/broadcast. And tomorrow, we’ll continue the conversation with Ashley Willis about reclaiming joy in motherhood.

Preview:

Ashley Willis: And we do need to know, like, God gave us these kids. It’s a big role that we’re filling, but I think when we allow that to just rule in our hearts where love is supposed to rule, then we’re missing it. We’re missing the joy that’s in it.

End of Preview

Today's Guests

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Peace Pirates: Conquering the Beliefs and Behaviors That Steal Your Treasure in Motherhood

Receive the book Peace Pirates and the audio download of the broadcast "Rediscovering Your Joy in Motherhood" for your donation of any amount! Plus, receive member-exclusive benefits when you make a recurring gift today. Your monthly support helps families thrive.

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Headshot image of Focus on the Family broadcast guest Dr. Patti Giebink

Mrs. Patti Giebink

Dr. Patti Giebink is an OB-GYN who serves on the board of the Alpha Center, a well-known pregnancy center located in Sioux Falls, S.D. She also travels intermittently to work in mission hospitals in Pakistan and other countries. After completing her medical training, Dr. Giebink worked for Planned Parenthood from 1995-1997, during which she was the only abortion-provider in the state of South Dakota. She eventually experienced a radical change of heart on the issue of abortion after receiving God’s grace, forgiveness, and love, and she is now a passionate advocate for the pro-life movement.

Cover image of the book "Unexpected Choice: An Abortion Doctor’s Journey to Pro-Life"

Unexpected Choice: An Abortion Doctor’s Journey to Pro-Life

Unexpected Choice is told from the perspective of a doctor who actually performed abortions through Planned Parenthood. The book chronicles her journey from being a pro-choice physician to someone speaking on behalf of the pro-life movement.

Giving up Sugar, Tasting God's Goodness

As a latchkey kid, Wendy Speake turned to sugar for comfort. Every Friday, she would pedal to the candy show and use her allowance to fill her bag with candy. And one day, when she was older and a mom of three young boys, she came to realize that she was still “pedaling” away from her stress and using sugar as comfort, instead of turning to Jesus. She was joyless, worn out, tired, and in need of a change. In this interview, Wendy will challenge Christians to take 40 days to focus on fasting from something they turn to instead of Jesus for comfort. She invited people to break free from a dependence on sugar and taste the goodness of God.

Author Wendy Speake smiling as she holds up her book "The 40-Day Social Media Fast"

Mrs. Wendy Speake

With a background in Hollywood as a trained actress, Wendy Speake ministers to women as a bible teacher by applying the power of drama, poetry and comedy to the study of Scripture and real-life application of biblical truths. She has co-authored two books with Amber Lia titled Triggers: Exchanging Parents’ Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses and their latest, Parenting Scripts: When What You’re Saying Isn’t Working, Say Something New. Wendy is also the co-author (with Kelli Stuart) of Life Creative: Inspiration for Today’s Renaissance Mom.

Cover image of the book "The 40-Day Sugar Fast"

The 40-Day Sugar Fast: Where Physical Detox Meets Spiritual Transformation

Welcome to the 40-Day Sugar Fast, a fast that begins with us giving Jesus our sugar and ends with Jesus giving us himself–the only thing that can ever truly satisfy our soul’s deep hunger. On this 40-day journey you’ll learn how to stop fixating on food and other things you use to fill the voids in life and instead fix your eyes on Christ. Anyone who runs to sugar for comfort or a reward, who eats mindlessly or out of boredom, who feels physically and spiritually lethargic, or who struggles with self-control will discover here not only freedom from their cravings but an entirely new appetite for the good things God has for us.

Understanding the Root of Your Child's Misbehavior - Part 1

Often, children act out because they are used to getting attention through bad behavior. Dr. Kevin Leman offers advice to help parents transform their child’s behavior. He discusses the benefits of allowing your kids to learn from real-life consequences and describes the importance of understanding your child’s temperament based on his birth order.

Dr. Kevin Leman

Dr. Kevin Leman

Dr. Kevin Leman is an internationally known family psychologist and an award-winning, New York Times best-selling author. He is also a popular public speaker and media personality who has made countless guest appearances on numerous radio and TV programs. Dr. Leman has written more than 50 books including The Birth Order BookHave a New Kid by Friday and Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours.

Bundle of Why Your Kids Misbehave

Why Your Kids Misbehave and What to Do about It

Tantrums. Talking back. Throwing toys or food. Meltdowns. Slamming doors. Kids know just how to push your buttons. You’ve tried all sorts of methods, but nothing seems to work. In this book, Dr. Kevin Leman reveals exactly why kids misbehave and how you can turn that behavior around with practical, no-nonsense strategies that really work . . . and are a long-term win for both of you.

Understanding the Root of Your Child's Misbehavior - Part 2

Often, children act out because they are used to getting attention through bad behavior. Dr. Kevin Leman offers advice to help parents transform their child’s behavior. He discusses the benefits of allowing your kids to learn from real-life consequences and describes the importance of understanding your child’s temperament based on his birth order.

Dr. Kevin Leman

Dr. Kevin Leman

Dr. Kevin Leman is an internationally known family psychologist and an award-winning, New York Times best-selling author. He is also a popular public speaker and media personality who has made countless guest appearances on numerous radio and TV programs. Dr. Leman has written more than 50 books including The Birth Order BookHave a New Kid by Friday and Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours.

Bundle of Why Your Kids Misbehave

Why Your Kids Misbehave and What to Do about It

Tantrums. Talking back. Throwing toys or food. Meltdowns. Slamming doors. Kids know just how to push your buttons. You’ve tried all sorts of methods, but nothing seems to work. In this book, Dr. Kevin Leman reveals exactly why kids misbehave and how you can turn that behavior around with practical, no-nonsense strategies that really work . . . and are a long-term win for both of you.

Loving Your Spouse Through the Seasons of Marriage - Part 2

Debra Fileta has identified the four seasons of marriage that correspond with our natural seasons – spring (new life and new love), summer (things get hot!), fall (showing our true colors), and winter (long days ahead). In this interview, she will help couples better understand the four seasons of healthy relationships, what to expect during each one, and how to carefully navigate them for a stronger marriage.

Author Debra Fileta in the Focus on the Family broadcast studio

Debra Fileta

Debra Fileta is a licensed professional counselor specializing in relationship and marital issues. She is also a public speaker and the author of multiple books, including Married SexChoosing Marriage: Why It Has to Start With We > Me, Love in Every Season, and Are You Really OK: Getting Real About Who You Are, How You’re Doing, and Why It Matters. Debra’s popular relationship advice blog, TrueLoveDates.com, and her Love + Relationships podcast reach millions of people each year offering guidance on topics including love, sex, and marriage.

Love in Every Season: Understanding the Four Stages of a Healthy Relationship

Every relationship goes through four life-changing seasons: Spring. Summer. Fall. Winter. Each season plays an important role in taking your relationship to the next level. And depending on how you navigate each season, your relationship will either flourish and grow, or it will slowly die. Whether you’re single, dating, engaged or married, join licensed professional counselor and relationship expert, Debra Fileta as she takes you on an eye-opening psychological and spiritual journey through the four seasons that she has observed in every healthy relationship.

Reconciling Faith and Science in a Medical Crisis

Dr. Lee Warren is a neurosurgeon who has faced many heavy challenges in his life – from serving in the Iraq War to removing deadly brain tumors to experiencing the loss of a teenage son. He’ll share about his difficult quest to find answers to some of life’s toughest questions, while holding onto his faith in God and the sure hope of heaven

Headshot of Focus on the Family broadcast guest Dr. W. Lee Warren

Dr. Lee Warren

W. Lee Warren, M.D., is a brain surgeon , inventor, Iraq War veteran, and author of I’ve Seen the End of You: A Neurosurgeon’s Look at Faith, Doubt, and the Things We Think We Know, winner of the Christian Book Award®. His previous book, No Place to Hide, was included on the 2015 U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff’s Recommended Reading List. Dr. Warren has appeared on The 700 Club and the CBS Evening News, and his writings have been featured in Guideposts magazine. His Dr. Lee Warren Podcast, which is heard in more than 60 countries, helps listeners use the power of neuroscience, faith, and common sense to change their lives.

Cover image of Dr. Lee Warren's book "I've Seen the End of You"

I've Seen the End of You: A Neurosurgeon's Look at Faith, Doubt, and the Things We Think We Know

This gripping inspirational memoir grapples with the tension between faith and science—and between death and hope—as a seasoned neurosurgeon faces insurmountable odds and grief both in the office and at home.

Praying Scripture Over Your Child’s Life - Part 1

Jodie Berndt loves to pray for her children. She’s been doing that for the past thirty years. Now she helps other parents to talk to God, asking for the salvation of their kids, and for wisdom, self-discipline, purpose, a future and much more. She offers fun and practical encouragement that moms and dads can put to work immediately in their daily lives as they prepare their children for a life in Christ.

Headshot of Focus on the Family broadcast guest Jodie Berndt

Jodie Berndt

Jodie Berndt is a public speaker, a Bible teacher, and the the author of 10 books. Find out more about Jodie and get some free resources (including printable prayer cards and calendars) at her website, jodieberndt.com.

Cover image of Jodie Berndt's book "Praying the Scriptures for Your Children"

Praying the Scriptures Over Your Children

You will discover how using the Bible to shape your desires and requests opens the door to God’s provision—and frees us from things like worry and fear in our parenting! This expanded edition of the bestseller features updated content on issues like technology and identity, and comes with new material designed to invite children into the family prayer circle. Purchase now and receive 10% off your product.

Mothers and Sons: Being a Godly Influence - Part 1

Rhonda Stoppe describes her early motherhood challenges of raising a son, which was intimidating to her. She found help through group of older women mentors. She urges moms to see their role as ministry in shaping sons to be good and godly men. Rhonda outlines several practical suggestions to moms about spiritual training, how to communicate with boys, and supporting the father-son relationship as a wife.

Headshot of Rhonda Stoppe

Rhonda Stoppe

Drawing upon 35 years of experience as a mentor, pastor’s wife, and homeschool mom, Rhonda Stoppe offers encouragement and guidance to women as an author and public speaker. She is popularly known as the “No Regrets Woman,” as she is especially passionate about helping women live life without regrets. Rhonda’s books include Moms Raising Sons to Be MenReal Life Romance, and The Marriage Mentor, which she co-authored with her husband, Steve.

Cover image of Rhonda Stoppe's book "Moms Raising Sons to be Men"

Moms Raising Sons to Be Men

Mothers of boys have the special calling to shape future men of God. Popular speaker Rhonda Stoppe, mom to two sons, knows this opportunity is a challenge, a joy, and probably the most important work of a woman’s life. Drawing from years of experience, this inspirational resource will revive the faithfulness and fortitude a woman needs to partner with God as they shape the character and heart of a future godly man.

Identifying Triggers in Your Marriage Part 1

They were both convinced they had married the wrong person. From almost the very beginning of their marriage, Amber and Guy Lia experienced various tensions and personality clashes related to house cleaning, backseat driving, workaholism, and intimacy. In this two-day Focus on the Family broadcast, Amber and Guy discuss how they bravely faced the triggers head-on, and committed to working on their own relationships with Jesus. As you listen to the Lia’s story, you’ll feel hope that you, too, can see real marriage transformation!

Headshot of Guy and Amber Lia

Mr. and Mrs. Guy and Amber Lia and Mrs. Jean Daly

Amber Lia is a work-at-home mom, blogger, public speaker, and co-author of two best-selling books. Her husband, Guy, is a former TV, feature film, and VFX development and production executive who has worked on popular TV shows and films. Guy and Amber own Storehouse Media Group, a faith- and family-friendly TV and film production company based in Los Angeles,

Cover image of the book "Marriage Triggers" by Guy and Amber Lia

Marriage Triggers: How You and Your Spouse Can Exchange Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses

A husband-wife team offers practical advice for married couples to end the cycle of reactionary arguments by examining the most common issues that trigger disagreements and apply God’s Word to radically transform relationships.

What to Do When You're Not Okay - Part 1

Life can be pretty stressful. Between work, relationships, and other obligations, the pressure builds, and we lose sight of who we are. Counselor Debra Fileta helps you better understand your emotions, assess your mental, physical, and spiritual health, and intentionally pursue a path to wellbeing. In dealing with anxiety, depression, and panic attacks, Debra understands the importance of self-examination as well as the benefits of seeking professional help. She offers biblically-based advice, tools, and encouragement to help you get on a path toward healing and wholeness.

Author Debra Fileta in the Focus on the Family broadcast studio

Mrs. Debra Fileta

Debra Fileta is a licensed professional counselor specializing in relationship and marital issues. She is also a public speaker and the author of multiple books, including Married SexChoosing Marriage: Why It Has to Start With We > Me, Love in Every Season, and Are You Really OK: Getting Real About Who You Are, How You’re Doing, and Why It Matters. Debra’s popular relationship advice blog, TrueLoveDates.com, and her Love + Relationships podcast reach millions of people each year offering guidance on topics including love, sex, and marriage. Debra resides in Pennsylvania with her husband, John, and their four children.

Are You Really Okay?

Are You Really OK: Getting Real About Who You Are

In Are You Really OK? author and licensed counselor Debra Fileta challenges you to get real with who you are and how you’re doing spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically so you can recognize where you need growth and healing.

Navigating a Toxic Culture with Your Daughter - Part 1

As a pediatrician, Dr. Meg Meeker has seen thousands of girls come through her office through the years. They struggle with eating issues, sexual identity, social media…and many other challenges in this toxic culture. Dr. Meeker will encourage parents to invest love and time in their daughters and develop their character to give them the best opportunity for a bright future, all rooted in a spiritual foundation. The discussion also includes healthy feminism vs. toxic feminism

Mrs. Meg Meeker

Dr. Meg Meeker is a pediatrician who is widely recognized as one of the country’s leading authorities on parenting, teens and children’s health. With appearances on numerous nationally syndicated radio and TV programs, her popularity as a an expert on key issues confronting families has created a strong following across America. Her work with countless families over the years served as the inspiration behind her best-selling books which include Strong Fathers, Strong DaughtersStrong Mothers, Strong Sons and The Ten Habits of Happy Mothers

Cover image of Dr. Meg Meeker's book "Raising a Strong Daughter in a Toxic Culture"

Raising a Strong Daughter in a Toxic Culture: 11 Steps to Keep Her Happy, Healthy, and Safe

Meg Meeker has been a pediatrician for more than thirty years, is a mother and a grandmother, and has seen it all. She knows what makes for strong, happy, healthy young women–and what puts our daughters at risk. Combining that experience with her famous common sense, she explains the eleven steps that will help your daughter–whether she’s a toddler or a troubled teen–to achieve her full human potential.

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Newest Release - Episode 1: The Truth About Life!

In this episode, we will tackle tough questions like, “When does life begin?” and “What does the Bible
say about Life?” You’ll discover and understand the stages of pre-born life and that babies are more than
just a clump of cells!

Yes, I Promise to Pray for the Pre-born and Their Moms!

Will you pray for the pre-born and moms that are facing unexpected pregnancies? We will send you a 7-day prayer guide that will help guide you along this journey with us!! You can even choose to receive this great resource by text!

Thank you for committing to pray for the pre-born!

Sign up below for your free seven-day prayer guide. This daily guide will help give direction to your prayers for the pro-life movement. We will be praying with you!