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Focus on the Family Broadcast

Staying Close to God as A Busy Mom (Part 2 of 2)

Staying Close to God as A Busy Mom (Part 2 of 2)

Courtney Ellis knows the struggle of finding time to connect with God in the midst of motherhood duties like diapers, dishes, laundry and countless to-do lists. In this interview, Courtney will encourage moms in their faith journey by sharing her tips for creating spiritual growth, intimacy, and renewal. (Part 2 of 2)
Original Air Date: July 22, 2022

Preview:

Courtney Ellis: My will was weak. My attention was weak. And here’s the thing about spiritual practices. They’re not about us pleasing God or finally being good enough. It’s about returning again and again to the reminders that God loves us.

End of Preview

John Fuller: That’s Reverend Courtney Ellis describing how spiritual disciplines like prayer, worship and service can transform your family and your faith in powerful ways. Courtney is back with us today on Focus on the Family. And your host is Focus president and author Jim Daly. I’m John Fuller.

Jim Daly: John, uh, we had a great conversation last time with Courtney about a common challenge, uh, we all face as followers of Christ; how to better incorporate our faith and intimacy with the Lord into our daily routine, especially in parenting. And we all know the struggle. Uh, we’re too busy and life happens, and before you know it, uh, you’ve missed devotions again. And you say, “Lord, I’m sorry. I’ll do it tomorrow,” and you miss them again, cause it’s just the pace, right?

John: Mm-hmm.

Jim: But here’s the thing. God understands our predicament. He knows our season of life. He knows that business, and that’s why Jesus says this in Matthew 11, uh, 28 and 30, “Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

John: Mm-hmm.

Jim: Doesn’t that sound good?

John: It does. It’s very appealing right now.

Jim: Well, and just like everything else, if we bring those failings and burdens to the Lord, he will help us, uh, get through. And that’s the message that Courtney wants to share with us today. If you missed the conversation last time, get the download, uh, get the app for your smartphone so you can listen when you want to, or you can, uh, watch on YouTube.

John: Yeah, it was a really good conversation, and we do have Courtney Ellis back with us today. She’s an author, speaker, and associate pastor. Uh, she and her husband, Daryl, have three young kids, and Courtney has written a book that spells out her own struggles to consistently live as a disciple of Jesus. Uh, the title is Almost Holy Mama: Life-Giving Spiritual Practices for Weary Parents.

Jim: Courtney, welcome back.

Courtney: Thanks for having me.

Jim: We’re gonna kick it off with a really important topic now, laundry.

Courtney: Whoo.

Jim: (laughs)

John: (laughs)

Jim: Let’s dig into the spiritual blessing of laundry. Um, you know, one thing, uh, th- again, I said this often last time, but Jean did a wonderful job. By the time our boys were 10, they were doing their own laundry. And I always thought that was probably her, the highest achievement for us.

John: (laughs)

Jim: (laughs). Uh, getting ready for bed, not so big on the marks, but, but getting the laundry, done uh, just something that she handed to them quickly, and they took to it. And we did have a few pink items that came out from time to time. I think you had your, your own pink item episode. What was that?

Courtney: Uh, I did. It was early in our marriage before children when we were both in seminary and didn’t have two nickels to rub together. And I was doing the laundry, and turned all of my husband’s undershirts pink.

Jim: (laughs)

Courtney: And being seminary students, we did not have the budget to replace those for quite a while. So-

Jim: So he wore those pink shirts.

Courtney: He, I think he just stopped wearing undershirts for a while.

Jim: (laughs)

Courtney: He started to button up all the way to here. Um, but he said, “You know, why don’t I do the washing, and you-

Jim: That’s a great plan on your part.

Courtney: do the drying and the folding and the putting away?”

Jim: Oh.

Courtney: Except I wouldn’t do the folding and the putting away. I would just have laundry mountains staring at me from the corner. And then we got, had children, and every tiny baby-

Jim: Ah.

Courtney: increases the laundry in exponential ways.

Jim: Exponentially.

Courtney: I was not prepared. And it was a chore that I really didn’t like. And I have all of these deep, theological reasons for why-

Jim: (laughs)

Courtney: the, the tasks of the home are so important, but I couldn’t convince myself. I, I just, I didn’t want to do it. And so I thought if I have to do this, I need to do this, the family needs to not live out of laundry baskets forever. Um, Daryl is doing his part so faithfully, then is there a spiritual practice that I can connect to it that will make me feel like that time is, is holy-

Jim: Yeah.

Courtney: that God is present to me in it? And so I started practicing listening prayer while I folded laundry.

Jim: And describe that.

Courtney: Yes. So I… Listening prayer is simply putting yourself in the presence of God and being quiet. And so I would say a few things or I would have a scripture I would meditate on. Often, I would let whose laundry I was folding guide my practice. So, “Dear Lord, please bless my, my son, Lincoln, please bless my son, Wilson, please bless my husband,” and then I would just be quiet and see what the Lord brought to my mind. And it was difficult. I’m a person of many words, (laughs) and so silence is tricky. But scripture talks a lot about being still before the Lord, and I think it means being still not just in our bodies, but also with our voices and also with our minds to, to be present to God in that way.

Jim: That’s good. I love the idea of praying for the per- the person’s clothing you’re folding. I’ll try to do that, too. I do try to do my own laundry.

John: (laughs)

Jim: John, you’re looking surprise.

John: Jean, jean is still working on you, huh?

Jim: No, seriously.

John: Yeah.

Courtney: And I cannot take credit for the idea. It was actually my dad who taught me that. He was the laundry folder in my house growing up.

Jim: Yeah.

Courtney: And he would tell us that he would pray for each of us as he folded our things.

Jim: I think folding is the hardest part.

Courtney: Yeah, and he had three daughters, so-

Jim: Throwing it in and putting detergent in there’s pretty easy.

Courtney: Yes.

Jim: I can do that all day long.

Courtney: Right? That one’s fast.

Jim: It’s when they’re ready to come out. What do you it… I gotta hang all these shirts up?

John: Yeah.

Jim: But anyway. Y- you had an experience with, uh, your washer breaking down. Uh, I, I think you said it was a very vulnerable moment when a friend said, “I’ll do your laundry.” W- what happened? Why was that so vulnerable?

Courtney: It was this perfect storm. We had a new baby. We had a two- or three-week-old baby. Our washing machine broke, and my husband, Daryl, had just had knee surgery, and so he was immobilized. And we had so much laundry and nowhere to do it. So a friend called and said, “I’m gonna come over. I’m gonna take your laundry to my house. I’ll do it all for you.” And I said, “That would be great.” And then I got off the phone and realized, “Oh, my goodness. Our laundry is… I don’t… There are things in our laundry I don’t want her to see.”

Jim: (laughs)

Courtney: And so I started pulling out all of my unmentionables, and-

Jim: Yes.

Courtney: and my husband says-

Jim: Delicates.

Courtney: Yes. My husband said, “We, we need those washed, too.” And I said, “Oh, I’m not pulling out yours. I’m only pulling out mine.”

Jim: (laughs)

Courtney: And so I got all the laundry ready for her, and she came, and she picked up all these laundry baskets. And it’s pretty intimate to do someone’s laundry, right? That’s their-

Jim: If you think about it.

Courtney: That’s their life.

Jim: Sure.

Courtney: That’s their… The food stains and everything else. And she was taking the last basket to the car, and then she looked down the hallway into our bedroom and said, “I see one more basket of laundry.” And she picked that one up, and she carried that to the car. And now, she had an entire basket full of only my unmentionables, (laughs) and I thought I would die. And it was this lesson to me of, of God’s-

Jim: Humility (laughs)

Courtney: humility and of God’s presence to us in the really bodily, intimate things-

Jim: Hm.

Courtney: that this dear Christian friend who did not have time to do laundry in addition to her own laundry, was giving of her time, her talent, her hauling of laundry, and that God loves us even in those most embarrassing places.

Jim: Hm.

Courtney: And this friend did, too.

Jim: You know, you said in the book, you really in terms of, um, receiving something in those times of listening prayer, it, there wasn’t anything earth-shattering in that regard, but you did sense God’s presence in that holy silence. Describe that again, that it was a victory, that it wasn’t wasted time.

Courtney: Yeah. It was an opportunity to just let myself be loved. And, you know, the trick with listening prayer is if we hear something, we need to test it against scripture, and, and wise people in the faith. It’s not, “Well, God told me, so I’m doing this, this thing that’s totally off the rails.” Don’t do that. Um, but I, I think I expected to hear something really earth-shattering from God. In times of listening prayer earlier in my life, I’ve heard, you know, I’ve sensed, “Okay, it’s time for a career shift, or it’s time for a move, or you need to have this hard conversation with this friend,” but during this season, I think God knew I was so exhausted that what I needed more than anything was the encouragement of just knowing God was near. So I’d fold little, tiny shirts, and I’d pray for my son, Wilson, and I’d say, “God, you know, please bless Wilson. Be with him.” And I’d hear from God, “I love Wilson, and I love you, and I’m here.” Um, and-

Jim: Hm.

Courtney: what a powerful reminder, and-

Jim: And I could sense it in what you’re saying and the emotion in that.

Courtney: Right? I think there’s not a mother out there who doesn’t need to hear that-

Jim: Yeah.

Courtney: and to be reminded that at the end of the day, the work is the Lord’s. At the end of the day, even the laundry is the Lord’s, and that God sees you-

Jim: Hm.

Courtney: in all that you do.

Jim: You, uh, mention in the book another great story where you find out you’re pregnant with your third child, and that was a more difficult pregnancy. What was the circumstance? And I can only imagine the additional weight that that added. But describe what happened.

Courtney: Yeah. When we talked about expanding our family to one more child, we thought we kind of knew what we would what we were in for. I had done this twice before, and it had went pretty well. And, you know, we had these two beautiful boys, and, you know, we prayed about it. And we’re like, “Okay, we’re, we’re open to this,” and then we got pregnant with our girl. And it was a completely different physical experience for me. I was now throwing up multiple, multiple, multiple times a day, and, and borderline unfunctional. I was going to do my job, and I would, you know, I would lead the opening prayer, and then I’d run to the bathroom and throw up. And then I’d preach a sermon, and then I’d run to the bathroom and throw up. And then I’d do the benediction, and I couldn’t do anything unless I was chewing peppermint gum all the time-

Jim: Oh, my goodness.

Courtney: which is such a no-no in public speaking.

Jim: Yeah.

Courtney: And it was just-

Jim: Hm.

Courtney: relentless. And so that’s where the book took an extended turn, because I couldn’t write for a while. I c-… There were days I struggled to sit up. There were days I struggled to eat anything at all. And the, it turned into a chapter on the spiritual practice of suffering.

Jim: Yeah. And in that, in that context, you described how difficult it was, I think in some ways, just to feel so helpless.

Courtney: Yeah.

Jim: And let’s drill into that a little bit, because I’m sure many, many women feel that at times, especially if they’re having their third child, their fourth child, whatever it might be. And you, you just feel disconnected and helpless. Describe it.

Courtney: I’m such a doer, and I think that’s true of many parents, because we have to be to get through the day. And to have a season where I couldn’t do much was really difficult. And my husband reminded me of the time he had his knee surgery, and the recovery from that when he could do very little. And he said, “You know, we are all needy sometimes.”

Jim: Hm.

Courtney: And so to throw yourself on the mercy of God and the love of your community… You know, my husband and I pastor together at our church, and we’re used to being the people who bring the meals-

Jim: Right.

Courtney: the people who give the love, the people who drop off the things. And to have our church family say, “Let us help you, let us bring you meals, let us-

Jim: It was hard.

Courtney: bring you dinner,” it was humbling, but it was so important, because our posture before God is not of givers, it’s of receivers. And we learned so much by receiving.

Jim: Did you have to talk about that? Did it feel… I mean, I think you even described it as feeling a bit of shame that you weren’t able to do. So, I mean, you guys are definitely doers-

Courtney: Very-

Jim: if you’re feeling shame if you don’t do.

Courtney: Yes. And I think when it’s, especially when it’s a third child or second child, and it wasn’t just that I was leaving my husband to fend for himself. He’s very capable, you know. He can cook, he can clean, he can do all the things, but it was him and two children, where often, he’d get home from a really long day, and I was like, “Here.” You know?

Jim: Yeah.

Courtney: Like, “I’m out. I’m going to bed at 7:00 PM. I’m done. I’m toasted.” And realizing that the, the love within our marriage and the love of God and the love of our community when we let them in on it and said, “You know, we really do need some help,”-

Jim: Yeah.

Courtney: they were there for us.

Jim: You know, it’s interesting. You, you talk about Psalm 23, which in there it says, you know, God, uh, makes us to lie down. Never, I never thought about it like a swift kick-

John: (laughs)

Jim: where he takes your feet out from under and makes you lie down-

Courtney: Yeah.

Jim: if you’re, like, over-extended. But describe how that scripture related to you at that time?

Courtney: It’s so fascinating with scripture, because we can read a passage a dozen times or 100 times-

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Courtney: and then you, you come to it at a certain day in your life or a season in your life, and it speaks so differently and so loudly. And that was Psalm 23. I didn’t make it past verse two.

Jim: (laughs)

Courtney: He makes me lie down in green pastures. And it was this reminder from God that this, this is your job right now, lay down.

Jim: I never thought of the fact that he doesn’t say helps you.

John: (laughs).

Jim: He says makes you.

Courtney: Right? There’s the, like-

Jim: (laughs) That is a little different.

Courtney: Yeah.

John: Hm.

Jim: I’ve always taken it as helps you.

Courtney: Right?

Jim: That’s funny.

Courtney: Leads me besides quiet waters kind of sounds like a gentle thing-

Jim: Yeah.

Courtney: but makes me lie down, because I think so many of us, especially those of us who work in ministry have this helper, doer, goer and, and accomplish all of these things because the kingdom is important. And ultimately, God was telling me I, I build the kingdom. You work for me

Jim: Hm. That’s good. That’s really good.

John: Yeah. Um, our Heavenly Father cares for us. He’s the loving shepherd. Well, we’re talking today on Focus on the Family with, with Courtney Ellis. And, uh, she’s got this great book Almost Holy Mama: Life-Giving Spiritual Practices for Weary Parents. And we certainly do encourage you to get a copy of that from us here at Focus on the Family. Call 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY, 800-232-6459, or stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.

Jim: Courtney, you write in the book about pilgrimage and travel. And I think modern families, we do more travel today than we used to. Uh, we’d be at home. I think Jean’s mom and dad said they had never really left southern California (laughs). But, uh, today, we do. And how did you incorporate that idea of pilgrimage into family travel, and how’d that go?

Courtney: It went up and down like, like everything else.

Jim: Well, was that like a vacation time, or what were you doing?

Courtney: Yeah. So pilgrimage is just expecting to meet God along the journey. And when we encounter difficulties in a journey, thinking of those as opportunities to meet with God in a new way, to learn something, to be challenged by God, to grow. Um, so it can be a long trip. And we took one, one long trip back to visit my family in the Mid-West in this book, but also it was traveling to Los Angeles to visit Daryl’s family, which is 65 miles. And in California traffic, that’s between one and four hours.

Jim: Yeah.

Courtney: Depends.

John: Mm-hmm.

Courtney: Um, but anywhere you go with young kids, you have to prep like you’re going to climb Everest.

Jim: (laughs)

Courtney: So it’s a journey even if you’re just going to the playground-

Jim: Yeah.

Courtney: cause God help you if you forgot the snacks.

Jim: Without a doubt. And many families have found the wonder of Adventures in Odyssey for those big travel moments (laughs).

John: Oh, good companion for any trip.

Jim: I’ve heard more from people that have used Odyssey for travel time-

John: Mm-hmm.

Jim: you know, which is a great radio, uh, program that we do for kids.

John: Mm-hmm.

Jim: And it’s, it’s 30-years-old. So we’ve got over 800 episodes for people. Uh, you say God calls all of us to be those pilgrims, but I, for the audience, really drill into that. What does that mean to be a pilgrim?

Courtney: To be a pilgrim is to be on a journey with Jesus. And so I linked it to travel because pilgrimage is our lives with God, our daily lives with God are our pilgrimage. But linking it to the actual practice of going somewhere was kind of a fun angle and a good reminder that a trip is not just a trip. It’s an opportunity to meet God in a new place, in a new way-

Jim: That’s good.

Courtney: and know that God is already working out there at the airport or in the Uber, or at the playground, or wherever we go along our journey.

Jim: Be alert.

Courtney: Yeah.

John: Now, Courtney, some of us might have travel planning control issues.

Jim: (laughs)

John: Um, it’s sort of like we know something’s gonna break down along the way, but let’s prevent as much as we can. We want to… Uh, as much, uh-

Jim: Are you a first born, or what?

John: I could be.

Jim: (laughs)

John: So the Lord invariably brings things along. How do I, today, get ready with that mindset that I’m gonna welcome the interruption even though it wrecks the rest of the trip in my mind?

Courtney: Yeah. I’m wired very much the same way. I’m a first-born, and I’ve got my spreadsheet, and we have a plan, right? My husband will start doing laundry 10 minutes before we leave, and I’m like, “What, what is going on?”

Jim: That’s plenty of time.

Courtney: Babe, stop. St-

Jim: I’m with your husband, man.

Courtney: Makes me crazy. Um, and that’s what we’ve learned in marriage is I just let him do his, and he lets me do mine, and we get along great. But viewing those interruptions as divine interruptions-

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Courtney: rather than some foreign thing that’s coming in is, is really an important piece that God is ordaining who you’re sitting next to on the airplane, and God is ordaining the flat tire, and God is ordaining… Right? Like, there are, there are opportunities and lessons and graces that we don’t expect when things don’t go as planned. And that’s a metaphor for the rest of our life, as well, right? It, it’s a trip, but it’s also everything else in our lives that sometimes gets derailed.

Jim: You know, Courtney, I used to believe that as a young Christian. (laughs)

John: (laughs)

Jim: I was far more open to, “Lord, thank you for that flat tire. Let me get out and repair that. Not only mine, but the person broke down next to me. I’ll do their tire, too.” And then over time, life kinda wears on you, and you say, “Eh, look at that poor person on the side of the road.” It’s not the right way to mature in Christ, is it?

Courtney: I think spiritual practices work on us and make us more tender. They make us after-

Jim: Should.

Courtney: They should.

Jim: Yeah, that’s the way-

Courtney: Yeah, and if-

Jim: it should progress.

Courtney: And if they’re not, then there, there are questions to ask about how we’re connecting with God or if we’re connecting with God, because if our faith is making us more arrogant, um, then something is off, something is wrong. Um, Jesus was gentle and humble in heart. And we should start to see that in our lives, which does not mean we encounter every difficulty with the spirit of, “Hooray.” We’d be sociopaths, right, to, to say, “This is a wonderful thing,” this terrible thing that has happened. “Thank you, Jesus, for cancer.” We don’t do that, but we know that in all circumstances, God can bring good things.

Jim: Yeah.

Courtney: So it’s beginning to look for those things, to look for God at work. Does the tow truck driver want to talk about his faith? Has he been through something recently? We wouldn’t have met him without the flat tire.

Jim: You know, uh, predictive models are there, and I don’t mean this as a, you know… I’m kind of teasing both you as first borns, but there are generally attributes that come in that position. You tend to be more responsible in that birth order. We’ve had Doctor Kevin Leman on, and last borns, you know, tend to be kind of the social people and all those kinds of things. As that, uh, person that’s wired in terms of that responsibility, and again, I don’t care what your birth order is. You can be a last born and be highly responsible. But in that, how did you in your own personal, uh, discipline begin to realize how do I become a little more flexible? How do I embrace a little slower pace, or whatever helped you in that intensity of responsibility?

Courtney: I love that question. And, and I think so much of what I was taught, I grew up in a wonderful evangelical church, was that devotions were done a certain way.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Courtney: You read your bible for a set amount of time, and you pray for a set amount of time. And then I would kind of leave it there and go about the rest of my day. I did the God part, and now this is on me. And that didn’t do good things for my control issues for my flexibility, but living into these spiritual practices, which by the way, they’re ancient. The church has been doing these for hundreds and thousands of years. I, I kind of grew up thinking there was no one between Paul and Billy Graham, but-

Jim: (laughs) Yes.

Courtney: there are wonderful folks in the faith. We can learn from Saint Augustine and Thomas Aquinas and, and Julian of Norwich who talk about these spiritual practices. And what happens is when we can integrate them into the rest of our day, it becomes this constant awareness that God is at work and that we are on this journey with Jesus. And it’s less a, “I did my thing, and now I’m gonna follow Jesus the best way I know how,” and it’s more, “I’m constantly in touch with God, and I’m constantly talking to Jesus. And what’s next? And how is God gonna meet me in this new situation,” the whole day long.

Jim: Yeah.

Courtney: And it takes the pressure off, cause if I would miss those morning devotions, I felt like, “That’s it. Nothing to do but try again tomorrow. God’s really disappointed in me.” And now it’s this reminder. I talk in the book about writing scripture on my shower walls with a wipe-off marker. If I miss the devotions, the Bible is there for me when I get that-

Jim: (laughs) Right. That’s good.

Courtney: 10-minute shower.

Jim: Right.

Courtney: That it’s not all or nothing-

Jim: Yeah.

Courtney: but it can be constant. When, when Paul tells us to pray continually, it doesn’t mean we’re always on our knees with our hands folded. It means our entire lives can be a prayer.

John: hm.

Jim: All right. So the spiritual practice as a last born, my favorite, celebrate.

John: (laughs)

Jim: Let’s have a party. What is, uh, that about? Celebrate, it feels like, uh, it’s a little of an anthesis to how we should behave with God.

Courtney: Yeah.

Jim: He’s serious.

Courtney: Right, be very serious-

Jim: Yes.

Courtney: and kind of grumpy all the time-

Jim: It’s not who the Lord is.

Courtney: sayeth the Lord. No, it’s not.

Jim: Not at all. Celebrate.

Courtney: Jesus was a master of celebration. We find him-

Jim: (laughs)

Courtney: always with his friends reclining at the table, and making the wine at the wedding, and going to the feast and the festivals, even when he had to go in secret because people were, were after him. He, he goes to these feasts and festivals. So scripture is filled with celebrations. There are all of these feasts and festivals in the Old Testament, and then there are many new ones in the New Testament. The early church, the early church had over 200 feast days every year.

Jim: That’s pretty good.

John: Wow.

Courtney: There were more feast days than not feast days.

John: (laughs)

Jim: (laughs)

Courtney: And then there was the weekly celebration of Sabbath-

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Courtney: where we remember that ultimately the work is the Lord’s, and we’re invited to rest from our labors. Eugene Peterson talks about the Sabbath as a day for praying and playing. And I used to major in the praying and forget the playing. The-

Jim: W- why was that hard for you, I mean, personally, that celebrate part? Why did that seem to be outside the orbit for you?

Courtney: First born maybe?

Jim: Yeah, I mean, that it, it-

Courtney: Yup.

Jim: Was it that, just that sheer responsibility thing?

Courtney: I, I had not really sat with Jesus as a full person.

Jim: Hm.

Courtney: And I would read more deeply into the “This is what you should do,” and I wouldn’t read as much about who Jesus was and the fact that he, he enjoyed these things so much. The message translation says that you called me a lush, right? There’s this idea that they see him enjoying the wine-

Jim: Right.

Courtney: to the point where they’re like, “This guy…” You know?

Jim: Which the Pharisees did. They said, like, uh, uh, he’s laughing and having too much fun.

Courtney: Yes. The kingdom of God is serious, and, and I don’t think it is. I think the kingdom of God is deep and playful and winsome and holy and-

Jim: It’s all of it.

Courtney: God calls us to celebration, because in celebration, we form greater connections with God and greater connections with one another. There is a holiness to play.

Jim: Yeah.

Courtney: There’s a holiness to, to joy. Our church is, you know, walking out of this pandemic like every other church in the country, and we’ve had to invest in livestream technologies, and new cameras, and new lighting, and all of these things. Our best purchase, couple of ping-pong tables for the patio.

Jim: (laughs) Now, we’re talking.

Courtney: Honestly, people stay, and they laugh, and they play, and they’re like, “I g-… I’ll catch you next Sunday. I’m playing you next Sunday.”

Jim: (laughs)

Courtney: And folks we would see once a month, we’re seeing every week because of celebration.

Jim: Yeah, being present. Y- you share a sweet story about unexpected celebration you experienced with your son, Lincoln, during a weekend retreat. What happened? I love that celebration between parent and child.

Courtney: As God was teaching me about not compartmentalizing my faith, I was about to lead a, a retreat for our college and young adults’ group. And the pastor I was going to co-lead it with said, “You know, bring your son.” And I said, “No, he’s four. He’s gonna throw rocks and eat dirt, and, you know, I don’t think that’s a good idea.” And he’s like, “You should bring him.” And so I brought him. And the final morning of the retreat, this pastor led a service of communion and talked about Jesus and the last supper, and what it means to give your life to the Lord. And I looked over at my little boy, and as far as I could tell, he wasn’t paying any attention. He was digging in the dirt, and he was begging the, the older kids for, for candy and snacks, and-

Jim: (laughs)

Courtney: And then I brought him home later that day, and he said, “You know, Pastor Steve talked about being a disciple of Jesus. Can I be a disciple of Jesus, too?”

Jim: Hm. So he was listening.

Courtney: He was listening.

Jim: Yeah.

Courtney: And he wanted to pray this prayer of salvation.

Jim: Aww.

Courtney: And I’m married to a PhD in theology. I always thought that would be Daryl’s moment, and Daryl was at the store. And I was like, “All right. I guess it’s me.” And so we knelt there on the carpet in his bedroom and prayed. And that wouldn’t have happened if Steve hadn’t said, “Bring him. It’s going to be fun.”

Jim: Yeah. And I, you know-

John: Hm.

Jim: for that person that does take their faith seriously, that’s admirable, but you do have to have life in that. And I think the Lord, you know, if you’ve lived your entire life, you’re 80 years old, maybe older, and you’ve just been this very serious person about your faith and maybe again with your temperament. Um, you know, what word do you have for that person to say enjoy what God has given you? I mean, experience it, not just be a scholar about it.

Courtney: Yeah.

Jim: And I, I think it does speak to the spirit of the heart. You know, that’s probably the Lord wants us to celebrate because, uh, it breaks us out of our, um, kind of high and mighty self. Celebration takes some humility that you’re not gonna act in a, uh, you know, sophisticated way. You may even be ridiculed like they did to Jesus.

Courtney: Yeah. I think that’s one of the reasons that Jesus invites us to come to him like little children. Children know how to celebrate. And so for the person who says, “My faith has been so serious for so long,” I would just say, “God gives you permission. God invites you.” There is no reason we have so many types of food, there’s no reason we have so many types of birds, there’s no reason we have so many sunsets. They don’t serve a purpose. They are for our joy.

Jim: Yeah.

Courtney: And they’re for our flourishing. And when we walk more deeply into that country of joy, which is our native land, God is glorified. It enlivens our faith; it deepens our connections with one another.

Jim: Yeah.

Courtney: That’s my next book, actually.

Jim: (laughs) That is good. Courtney, this has been wonderful. Thank you so much for being with us here at Focus for the first time over the last couple days. It’s been really good. And your wonderful book, Almost Holy Mama: Life-Giving Spiritual Practices for Weary Parents. And I, I don’t think I’ve met a parent, especially with young kids that isn’t weary. So this is a resource that you need. And, uh, you can get it right here from Focus on the Family. Make a gift of any amount, become a monthly sustainer or a one-time gift, and we’ll send it as our way of saying thank you for being part of the ministry. And as we said last time, John, there’s a great parenting assessment-

John: Mm-hmm.

Jim: that you can take at our website. It’s free. We just want to help you identify those things you’re doing well, and then identify some of those things you might do a little better at. And it’s only five to six minutes. And it’s a great resource for you to get on a better track in your parenting journey.

John: Yeah. Find the link to that free parenting assessment and details about Courtney’s book, and an opportunity to donate to the ministry. It’s all right there at the website. That’s focusonthefamily.com/broadcast, or call 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY, 800-232-6459.

Jim: Courtney, thanks for being with us. Really a good time. Thank you.

Courtney: Thank you for having me.

John: And we hope you have a great weekend with your family and your church family, as well. And plan to join us on Monday. We’ll hear from Patti Garibay, the founder of American Heritage Girls about why she started this alternative youth program.

Preview:

Patti Garibay: If you cannot pull yourself up, be able to recall those scriptures to encourage you and inform you, then you’re going to fall prey to all that’s out there, because the majority out there is against what you’re about.

End of Preview

Today's Guests

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Almost Holy Mama: Life-Giving Spiritual Practices for Weary Parents

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Headshot of Rhonda Stoppe

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

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Dr. Kevin Leman

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Bundle of Why Your Kids Misbehave

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Dr. Kevin Leman

Dr. Kevin Leman

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Bundle of Why Your Kids Misbehave

Why Your Kids Misbehave and What to Do about It

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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! 

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