In a discussion based on her book Surprised by Motherhood, Lisa-Jo Baker tells her touching story of how God changed her heart about becoming a mom after she had vowed to never have children. (Part 2 of 2)
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Lisa-Jo Baker: There's just nothing ordinary about motherhood. We save lives on a daily basis.
Jim Daly: (Laughing) That's right.
Lisa-Jo: We deserve a superhero cape. (Laughter) And so, I feel like I need to encourage moms that when they see themselves in the mirror, they just really need to picture that tattered cape flying out behind them, because goodness knows, they all wear one.
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John Fuller: Well, that's right, mom. You are a superhero for your family and you're gonna be hearing more hope and encouragement from Lisa-Jo Baker to persevere in that role on today's "Focus on the Family" with Focus president and author, Jim Daly.
Jim: John, in the culture we live in, it is so easy for moms to get discouraged. I know watching Jean, that you know, it just gets to be a burden at times.
John: Uh-hm, yeah.
Jim: And there's so much pressure and expectations placed on moms to do everything perfectly, which then causes many moms to feel overwhelmed. There's just this vicious cycle and here at Focus on the Family, I hope you know we want to bring you hope for your parenting journey, hope for your marriage, all those things that really make your family run the way I think God has intended for it to run.
And we have a variety of tools and resources for you--articles and CDs and other great things--that you can access here at Focus on the Family. I hope you do that, by the way.
Jim: Last time, Lisa-Jo reminded us that God loves you for you and not for what you simply do or for hoe many children you have. You know, we can use that as a measuring stick, as well. She shared transparently about what it's like to grow up in South Africa, lose her mom to cancer as a teenager and the intense pressure she felt from her church to get married and have kids. And that's a noble thing, but as a young woman, she was, I think a bit afraid of that.
Jim: As a result, she vowed that she never wanted to have kids, but through a series of events--it's just like God to do this--the Lord really changed her heart on the issue of motherhood and she's now the proud mom of the "three best children in the world," (Laughter) or so she claims.
John: Uh-hm, and if you missed any of the conversation last time, it really does set the foundation for today's program, so get the CD or the download. Listen online or get our mobile app and listen. The details are at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio.
And you've already heard a bit from her, but our guest is Lisa-Jo Baker and she's a mother and a self-processed superhero, a tea drinker, a blogger and has written a book, Surprised by Motherhood: Everything I Never Expected About Being a Mom.
Jim: Lisa-Jo, last time you told us with more detail, you know, your childhood, what you experienced, where you were coming from, the sorrow of losing your mom. Briefly give us the recap so we can get started today with that understanding.
Lisa-Jo.: Sure, so I grew up in South Africa, so if my accent seems a little confused on the radio, it's not you; it's me and I was born there and when I was 16, my mom was diagnosed with leukemia and she died a week to the day after my 18th birthday. So, I grew up one of those teenage girls, trying to figure out her way in the world and not sure what kind of woman she wanted to grow up to be.
Jim: You know, in my own way, I can identify with that with the loss of my mom and dad. You know, what kind of man would I want to be? Those thoughts haunt you at times. How did you move through that as a teenager? How did you become more comfortable with the situation God had you in?
Lisa-Jo.: I think in a very gracious way, the church and specifically, certain women that God put in my life helped mentor me to understanding who I wanted to be. And in many ways, I feel like, you know, the Holy Spirit mothered me, like He loved me, you know and He put people in my life to help me understand the story of who I wanted to grow up to be as a woman and eventually as a mother. Jim: Lisa-Jo, that is very accurate and I'm talking just observing my own wife, a mom of two boys, that women have a unique ability to heap a lot of guilt onto themselves. I think it, on one side, it shows a very tender heart, the heart of a godly woman. They're very good at looking at their own shortcomings.
Jim: But how in your experience and especially where you were coming from, not wanting children early on and then, you know, God beautifully changing your heart in that regard, how did you come to grips with that? How did you come to terms with God, that it's not about guilt-driven activity or guilt-driven anything. It's about glory.
Lisa-Jo: I know. You know, I think the enemy is out to steal and destroy. And I think he hates motherhood, because of what it stands for and it's such a mighty calling that if he can diminish it in the eyes of the world and then in the eyes of a mother herself, he wins.
So the guilt is such a lie a lot of time. It sneaks in there. You know, the sneaky, sneaky voice that whispers, you're just not enough. You're not doing enough. You're a bad mom. And I think there's a difference between having a bad day--and some days are just bad, okay (Laughter); they're flat-out difficult—
Jim: That's true for all of us.
Lisa-Jo: --and being a bad mom. And I think the enemy is very good at helping us skip the bad-day part and identifying ourselves as a bad mom. And in doing that, he steals. He robs the joy of motherhood from us and he also deceives us into missing the parable of motherhood.
The fact that I always tell moms, motherhood isn't hard because you're bad at it. Motherhood is hard because it's supposed to be. God has actually designed it this way. He's designed it because motherhood is the ultimate crucible for understanding what does it mean to lay myself down for somebody else. That's why it's hard (Laughing), not because you're bad at it, but because it's what God uses to refine us and to bring us closer to Him and to remind us that we need Him so desperately in those 2 a.m. hours. So, you're not doing a bad job, mom. You're right on track actually, if that's how you feel.
Jim: That's well-said and you know, your enthusiasm is coming through so (Laughter), hang in there, ladies. Make sure you're gettin' it done, but do it with a hopeful attitude. You mentioned in your book, Lisa-Jo, you talk about this concept of breaking up with yourself. What were you getting at?
Lisa-Jo: Yeah, so this was one of the big surprises for me. I kind of thought I could become a mom and then I'd just sort of continue my life as I was used to it, right, my sort of spoiled life that I didn't realize was like a mini-vacation most of the time. You know, I could nap when I wanted to. I ate hot food. I went to the bathroom without anybody else, narrating what's going on while I'm in there. (Laughter) You know, I had a certain degree of privacy in my life and if I wanted to go to the movies at the drop of a hat, I could.
And I was shocked, just to discover that a baby really can put an FBI tracking device to shame (Laughter) for how it controls all of your movement, okay. So, there are all these parts of my life I used to love that I suddenly had to break up with and it was so shocking to me. I mean, it was so shocking to me.
And you know, kids arrive and they huff and they puff and they blow your life down and there are all these little pieces and you have to pick them back up again and build a new story of who you are. Who am I? Who am I going to be? What are these kids gonna be in my life?
And you realize, I break up with all these parts of my life, that there's nothing wrong with them. They're not bad inherently. But I break up with them for something so much better. And that's, I think, what Christ is always calling us into deeper relationship with Him.
So, I let go, kind of like Paul says, I let go of the things that hindered me and I run a new race, closer to Christ and understanding Him so much better. You know, all of my years of coming to Him with my whining and my worries and my anxiety, I understand for the very first time when I became a mom, you know, why Jesus would walk into the dark and offer Himself up as ransom, because that's what mothers do. You know, without a thought, that is what we would do.
So, the beauty of motherhood is, we really get to experience what Christ has given us from the inside out. You know, we live it. We actually live it.
Jim: And it's beautifully said. I mean, that really paints a picture for the aspirational woman who wants to, you know, rise to that. Let me ask you though. It sounds too, in terms of the control factor, because as you're describing it, I'm you know, just putting the pieces together, as a young woman, you wanted to control that environment.
Jim: You wanted to control outcomes. You wanted to become the attorney. You didn't want to have children. God changes your heart. He gives you three beautiful little children now. Your privacy is gone (Laughter), all the wonderful things, the FBI tracking device is on you.
John: Great illustration.
Jim: That is a great illustration. And you're in less control today than you've ever been in your life and how does that make you feel?
Lisa-Jo: Well, it's reality, isn't it? I mean, control is an illusion and children help us realize that. I mean, that's what I realized for the first time. Oh, all this control I thought I had over my life is just not that. I have no control over my life and let alone, my own body. Like when you're pregnant with a child, you realized, like I have no control what's going on in there, you know. Jesus is about His business of making new life and He's using me and I get to be part of His story and not the other way around.
Jim: You know, so often here at Focus on the Family, we're hearing from women who, they went into marriage and parenthood, maybe with a good attitude and a desire, but in the midst of that, they're feeling like, wow, now I've lost my identity. I was an attorney. I was this. I was that and now I feel lost in all that. Speak to her heart.
Jim: What do you do to get an identity that is more biblically rooted, something perhaps that is being missed right now by that person who maybe applies the worldly labels and is wondering, who am I now?
Lisa-Jo: You know, I actually hear from quite a lot of moms who will write to me and say, "Well, unlike you, Lisa-Jo, I always wanted to be a mom, right. I was looking forward to being a mom. However, now that I am a mom, I'm just struggling so much with this adjustment and I feel disappointed in it. I feel like embarrassed to even tell anyone I'm struggling, 'cause I've wanted to be a mom and I shouldn't struggle, 'cause I've always wanted it."
And I think it comes back to that idea of breaking up with yourself. I think we have to recognize what a huge shift it is from going to not having children to having kids, that there has to be sort of a grieving period, right, that that's okay. You don't have to feel guilty about that. There is a huge shift in your identity and what your day looks like and it's okay if that's hard, because we're saying goodbye to a version of ourselves we knew and were comfortable with and we now have to understand this new version of who Christ is naming us, as we become "mother."
And so, when I've thought about that myself and tried to make sense, you know, and then maybe there are other things you're giving up, too, you know, a career or now you're at home or now you're trying to adjust to homeschooling, whatever the new challenge is that motherhood brings, it can make you feel out of control. And it can make you feel overwhelmed and that no one understands.
And I tell you what. There is a verse that has meant so much to me from Colossians 1:17. It says, "In Christ, all things hold together." And has come to be so dear to me, 'cause I read that verse and I hear, "In Christ, all things hold together, including the piles of laundry and the dirty dishes and the toddler who said she hates me and, you know, in Christ, all things, like all things. That means even the small tiny parts of your life you feel like nobody notices, Christ holds that together and He holds us mothers together on the days when we can't hold it together.
And it's so comforting to know, you know, sometimes we think of Christ as distant. You know, He's big. He's God of the Universe and we can get caught up in how far we feel from Him, but I love knowing that He is here in the intimate daily details of diaper changes and dishes and signing report cards, because in Him, all things hold together.
Jim: It's so true and that's encouragement for all moms. Have you connected your motherhood now with your relationship with your mom, the one that you have missed--
Jim: --since you were 18 when she passed away? She doesn't have the opportunity and you don't have the opportunity to have her see your kids and whisper in your ear, here's what I would do or to get that encouragement. How do you compensate for that? Or what's in your heart about that?
Lisa-Jo: Man, I tell you what. Jesus, He is just never done making all things new. And in my story when I was writing this book, part of what I discovered is how He has done that in such a unique way for me. And there's actually a chapter called "After 18 Years I Rediscovered My Mom," because I had these two boys and I thought when I was pregnant with our third it would be a boy. I just assumed, chances are you know—
Lisa-Jo: --pretty good it'll be another boy and instead, I was pregnant with a daughter. And I was so shocked and I felt like I wasn't equipped to be the mom of a girl, because my mom died and I grew up with all boys and I'm not a girly-girl and what am I gonna do with this daughter? Like God has made such a huge mistake to give me this girl.
And what's interesting is, I found out I was pregnant with her on the anniversary of 18 years since my mom had passed away. And so, I knew that it was a, you know, mile marker, because every year after that, she would have been dead longer than she had been alive for me.
Lisa-Jo: And on that day when I found out I was pregnant, I really felt like I heard the Holy Spirit just speak life over me. You know, I am a God of life. I make all things new. Your legacy isn't one of death. Your legacy is one of life.
And so, months later when we discovered it was a daughter, the Greek word for "life," of course, is "zoe." And we felt like that was the name He had given us and the verse, John 10:10 is her life verse. You know, "I have come to give them life and life to the full." And through mothering Zoe, I have discovered my mom in all new ways. And I have really understood how she loved me because of how I love this daughter of mine. So, while I might not have all these memories of her loving me in specific ways, I realize it doesn't matter, because she had them, like she had 18 years of loving me and I love Zoe now in such a deep profound way and a connection between a mother and a daughter is different than my boys. You know, I love them dearly, but there's something about my girl that helps me understand the fullness of my mother's love for me.
Jim: Well, in some ways, maybe you in that relationship particularly, you become mother's daughter.
Lisa-Jo: Yeah and you get do-overs. That's the great thing about God, right, like the things that were hurtful in my own childhood, I get to over with my daughter and make a new story for us.
Jim: I'm gonna press you a little bit with one of your kids, Micah, who I think knows how to push your buttons(Laughter), I guess is the way Jean, my wife, would say it.
Lisa-Jo: He's an artist at it, really.
Jim: He's an artist. What happens for the mom where you know, you have two or three children, maybe more and there is that one child that really does know how to get ya? How do you respond and what was the situation with Micah that you began to learn, okay, I've got a little issue here?
Lisa-Jo: Yeah, well, Micah is like looking in the mirror and I think that's part of the struggle. (Laughter)
Jim: Too much alike.
Lisa-Jo: Yes. He brings a lot of passion to the table. That's what we call it, a lot of passion. And sometimes that boils over into temper. Well, what we say to him is, that when God gives you that much passion in your life, He can direct it, right? And it doesn't have to be into temper. It can be into changing the world, you know, however God calls you.
But temper has been his struggle and I realize just because it's been my struggle and it was my dad's struggle before me. And parenting Micah has been so humbling, because it's been so difficult and it has really required me to pay attention to myself, because it's easy to say, well, this kid is so difficult. It's the kid's problem—
Lisa-Jo: --right? But I've realized in parenting, well, if I'm having this problem with my son who is of me, I probably need to spend some time examining myself. And you know, Micah's name means "Who is like God?" And in moments when he and I have had real standoffs, when I have been so angry with him and I've talked to other moms and I think anger is sort of the dirty secret of motherhood that we don't want to admit to, but that we all really struggle with.
And I was having this standoff moment with Micah, where I was so angry with him and I was describing to him his birth story, which he's familiar with and he was the hardest one, of course, to bring into this world, right. And he looked at me and with all the fire of a 5-year-old said, "You know what I wish, Mom? I wish when I was born, they gave me to a different family."
Lisa-Jo: Uuf, man, it's very hard in that moment to remember that you are, in fact, the adult and not to respond with, "That can be arranged, kid!" (Laughter) But in that moment when I was looking at him, I was so angry with him. I looked at him and I wanted to say to him, "You know, Micah, it was so hard just to give birth to you" and I wanted to say, "And it wasn't worth it," is what I wanted to tell him.
Lisa-Jo: But because I do believe motherhood is sacred ground where the Holy Spirit does some of His best work and because I had been paying attention to my temper and had been asking Jesus to be the boss of me and not my kids, the Holy Spirit dropped a filter and the words I was so surprised to hear come out of my mouth were, "Micah, you were the hardest one to deliver into this world, and I would do it again and again and again, because I need a Micah."
And in that moment, I felt like the Holy Spirit's words to me were, "Micah means 'Who is like God.' Lisa-Jo, who are you to ask why do I have this hard kid? You know, who is like God. He gave this kid to you. I gave you Micah because you need a Micah in your life."
And I was able to say to him, "I need you in my life." And so, my encouragement to moms who struggle with kids that are challenging, is that it's not a mistake. It's not a mistake that you have this child. It's a gift. Everything God gives us is a gift for His good and His glory and God has used Micah to sanctify me in ways that 100 Beth Moore Bible studies could not have done (Laughter), you know.
Jim: No slight against Beth, of course.
Lisa-Jo: No, I love Beth.
Jim: But the uh … let me push on that a little bit, 'cause a lot of moms are connecting with what you're saying there and especially with this issue of the hidden anger.
Jim: And practically speaking, I think aspirationally you've painted that picture so beautifully about the holy moment and what the Holy Spirit does in motherhood and working in those quiet places. How does a mom though who, you know, given her background, may not process that anger as well or learn, what would you say to her?
Lisa-Jo: This has been a heart issue for me and people who've read my blog and my book will know, this is something I've wrestled with a lot. And I actually wrote a blog post; maybe we can link it somewhere after—
Lisa-Jo:--the broadcast for folks, called Ten Things to Do Differently Before You Lose Your Temper," because as we all know, when you're in the moment, it's very difficult and it's sort of a brief nut shell for women that are listening.
First off, I want to tell you this. You need to repeat to yourself these words from the songs that your kids sing in Sunday school, 'cause you need to remember this before you even have this conversation. Here, repeat with me. "Jesus loves me; this I know, for the Bible tells me so." You need to begin there, right? Jesus loves you, okay, even if you've lost your temper, even if you're so angry on some days, He loves you and He is for you.
And then I think it's interesting to go and look at what does God say about anger, 'cause God talks about anger in the Bible quite a bit and we hear that God becomes angry. So, we recognize that anger in and of itself, is not a sin. It's an emotion that we experience.
It's what we do with that emotion that matters and God models for us what righteous anger looks like versus, usually the kind I display, which is unrighteous anger that we want to steer clear of. So, I want to encourage you. It's not like you have to eliminate anger from your life, because that's impossible. We're human. Jesus experienced anger Himself. We see the example when He turns over the money changers' tables at the temple. So, don't feel like you have eliminate anger, 'cause I think then at some point, you're just gonna explode, 'cause you have only suppressed it.
But then I do think it's good to take a trip down memory lane and look at your family the way I looked at mine and say to God, "Show me; is this something my family has struggled with?" And take it to God. Like give it to Him and say, "How do I cut this off, this sin of anger, you know, this unrighteous anger?" Because He is a God who makes all things new and He says, He will bless us to the second and third generation. He wants to, so, take it to Him.
And then practical things, put yourself in a time out if you need to. I tell that to my kids. Stop talking to me. I'm going in a time out. And it's for everybody's benefit, because sometimes you're tired and sometimes you're hungry and sometimes you've had no alone time. Tell your husband, as I have told mine, if you are not home in half an hour, I am not responsible for what happens to your children, you know. (Laughter) And go to Starbucks and drink a coffee. You're not being selfish. You're doing self-care. You're diffusing the time bomb that is sometimes a mom.
And then here's the other thing. When you've lost it and blown it, and those days will happen, get down on your knees in front of your little people and say, "Sorry." It is one of the most powerful lessons you're gonna teach them. You are going to model what it looks like to ask for forgiveness and it is a gift that you put in the hands of that tiny little human standing in front of you when their big mom, who controls all the things in their world says, "Sorry." And it will teach them that one day when they become the adult and they have all the power in a relationship, what it looks like to say sorry. But I do think it's important touch on what you mentioned, Jim, that you know, Christ says and Scripture says, "In your anger, do not sin."
And If you're listening to this and you feel like you've crossed a line with your kids and you've hurt them, you need back up, my friend. Like you need more people on your team and in your fox hole with you. And the great thing about Focus on the Family is, they have fantastic resources. They have a page where you can get in touch with counselors. You can call someone and talk to them.
If you're in a local church, go and talk to someone there. And maybe you're part of a MOPS group, Mothers of Preschoolers. Share with your leader there, because here's the thing. They're not gonna be shocked, because all moms have experienced frustration to some point or another. Don't let Satan tell you that this is something you have to hide. Really, let Jesus come in and walk with you as you go and share that in a safe place with someone, that they can help you be a safe place for your kids. That's who we want to be, a safe place for our kids.
Jim: You know, you've said it so well, Lisa-Jo and I think unfortunately, this is where we gotta wrap it up. The wisdom that you've brought I so appreciate. The life experience that you have brought is terrific, identifying those weaknesses and particularly in moms and the strengths, which is where I know you want to end--
Jim: --that it's a good thing. It's a holy thing to be a mother and the journey that God has brought you through to get to that point. It's exciting to see and I just want to say thank you for bringing it to Focus on the Family. I hope everybody can get the book, Surprised by Motherhood: Everything I Never Expected About Being a Mom. And we'll link to your blog so people can read those great insights and thoughts that you've provided. Thanks so much for bein' with us.
Lisa-Jo.: Oh, thank you for having me. It was wonderful. What an honor to get to connect with so many moms through you guys. I appreciate it and I am cheering for you all with your superhero capes flapping in the (Laughter) wind behind you.
Jim: That is good.
John: Well, I hope that you've been reminded about an incredible impact that you're making as a mom, not just for your kids, but for future generation. And as you could tell, Lisa-Jo offers a lot of comfort and encouragement and her book, Surprised by Motherhood is certainly from a "I'm a mom, too" perspective and will offer you some real grace for the mothering journey. You'll find a copy of that and a CD or a download with some extra audio. Also you can stream it or listen to this again through our mobile app, all of these resources and more at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio.
And when you get in touch, please consider becoming a financial supporter of the work here. Day in, day out, God is using this ministry to touch lives in some pretty dramatic ways. In fact, with regard to our topic today of being a mom, we've heard from a lot of parents who are working through a significant crisis with their children and our research tells us that just in the past 12 months, 150,000 families have benefitted at that point of crisis with their child from Focus on the Family. We've helped them weather that storm and move to a healthier place.
Let me share a comment that illustrates this. Here's a listener named Sandy:
Sandy: Focus on the Family has been very instrumental in our children in not just how they live, the impact that they make on the world, but in their salvation and living for Christ and so, I'm just very moved. And we've been here many times and this is the first time we've been back without our kids, but our family is what it is today because of you guys.
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John: Well, it is an awesome thing to see God using Focus on the Family in that kind of way and we just absolutely love to come alongside mothers like Sandy and offer the tools that are needed to raise children and to sense that we're a stronger family today because of what I've learned through Focus on the Family or the advice I got.
And I want to invite you to be a part of the outreach that is called "Focus on the Family," that God uses. Pray for us and if you can, after you've supported your church, make a generous donation to the work here. You can do that when you call 800-A-FAMILY or online at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio.
In fact, if you make a generous donation today to the ministry of any amount, we'd like to say thank you by sending you a copy of Lisa-Jo's book. It'll encourage you. It might be for a friend or perhaps you have a child who's at that point of really needing some help in the parenting journey. So, please get in touch. Donate as you can and we'll send that book to you.
Our program was provided by Focus on the Family and on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening. I'm John Fuller, inviting you back next time. We'll hear an inspiring story about how you can stand in the gap for children in foster care, as we have encouragement and advice to help your family thrive.
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Lisa-Jo BakerView Bio
Lisa-Jo Baker is a blogger, a public speaker and the author of Surprised by Motherhood: Everything I Never Expected About Being a Mom. She is also the social media manager for the DaySpring Christian card company and the community manager for DaySpring's (in)courage.me website which offers encouragement to millions of women around the world. Lisa-Jo and her husband have three children and live near Washington, D.C. Learn more about Lisa-Jo by visiting her blog/website: www.lisajobaker.com.