I have a crystal clear memory of the first time I held all four of my children. I remember looking into each of their faces with pure adoration and wondering who they would become. I still have these thoughts on certain days, but the answer to my question is unmistakable. It’s found in my willingness to patiently train my children day by day.

Harley was my first, and I had prepared myself the best way I knew how. I read all the books I could get my hands on. I wanted to know the best ways to do everything: from feeding him, teaching him how to sleep, and disciplining him. That was over seven years ago.

I recognize this in no fashion qualifies me as an expert, and there is ALWAYS more to learn. Unable to sleep the past two nights, and my heart heavy with worry over decisions we are making regarding our children, I want to share some truths God has shown me in this season of uncertainty. Training our children is tough. And the issues we must address as Mamas become increasingly more complex with age. Just when you think you’ve conquered a hurdle, you find another standing in front of you that was taller than the one before it. It’s the one job that truly never ends.

Four children and seven years later, I have learned something that most of you Mamas probably already know…children require a great deal of patience and teaching. With each child I like to think I have learned new and more efficient ways in dealing with the same problems (though some days I still feel as though I have absolutely no clue what I’m doing). In all honesty, there are things I wish I could go back and change. But unfortunately, any mistakes we Mamas make cannot be undone.

The question I have come to realize we all need to be asking ourselves with each new morning, is how can I raise a child who loves the Lord? How can I shoot them as a straight arrow towards Jesus? A child with a compassionate heart that is kind to others and lives honestly when the world in which they live encourages dishonesty and immorality?

  1. Begin as you mean to go

I’ve said this sentence so many times in the last seven years that I’m pretty sure it annoys my husband, but goodness is it true. Whether you have a newborn or a teen (not there yet, but surely it has to be just as true if not more so), set a Godly example TODAY. It will be much easier to change bad habits in the formative years (age zero to five) than in an older child, but I believe through prayer and God’s help it is possible to teach children at any age.

2. Consistency

One of the biggest mistakes we Mamas make (and I say we because I am often guilty of it too) is being inconsistent. When you tell your child the rules, follow through. If Janie knows she isn’t supposed to run in the house, do not ignore the bad behavior because you don’t feel like dealing with it or because you’re too busy. Stop what you’re doing, explain to her why you are about to punish her because she broke the rules. Then DO IT.

3. Patience

Oh how I need a triple dose with every new sunrise…The thing is, training takes repetition. You will have to teach your child the same principles over and over and over again. Sometimes these teaching moments will be painful. When your child tests your resolve by mouthing off, it pains your heart. Patience will allow you to deal with disobedience calmly without losing your cool (NOT my strong suit). Patience prompts you to stop and allow your children to help you in the kitchen when all you really wanna do is rush to get supper on the table. Patience teaches them how to love through our own willingness to extend patience to them in moments of disobedience.

4. Example

If it’s important to you that your children use their manners, respect others, and work hard, then set the standard with your own behavior. Our children will always learn way more from us by watching what we do than they do by listening. Remember to say please and thank you. If your child helps you clean up or brings you a flower he picked for you, tell him thank you. When you are thoughtful of a need in your church community, you are setting a good servants example. If you want your child to be neat and keep a tidy home, make sure you keep your own things put away.

5. Firm

Children need limits and they need to know them. If you allow your child total freedom without setting limitations, you will raise children who are out of control and rude. Parents who set reasonable rules for their children have children who are secure in their love and who are able to easily respect and submit to authority on a greater level (i.e. teachers, employers, lawmakers, and God). Remember, if you say NO, do NOT give in and say YES. Whining, bargaining, and complaining should never be a reason you change your mind. You will only teach your child that if they beg long enough, you will eventually wear down and give in.

6. Fun

Motherhood goes faster than we realize in the day to day moments. Some days feel endless but the years fly by at warp speed. I’m still in shock that my son is turning seven next week. I know one day I will wish I had realized how much I wanna hang onto the precious times I’m living in right now. We all could do more with slowing down, reading to our children EVERY DAY, playing games, laughing together, exploring, and finding the magic in the everyday moments. Step away from all the endless to-dos, and snuggle and cuddle as much as possible.

7. Witness

Providing a solid foundation of Biblical teachings is the greatest gift you can give your children. Pray with your child each day. Multiple times a day. Have bible studies and talk about the Scriptures and how the Bible applies to everything in their lives today. Show your child through action what it means to live a Godly life.

There will be times when it feels like your hard work isn’t working. But rest fully assured that you can trust God when he says to “Train up a child in the way that he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).

Motherhood isn’t a sprint. It’s a marathon. It can feel like gasping for air on the side of a track when you haven’t trained for your run. Our days are full of needs and often it seems like we can’t stop working. We push our limits and refuse rest desperate to be godly mamas, but we’re left exhausted and unsure of the finish line. Our pace may slow and we’re no longer running–we’re limping.

The world pushes self -care and words like “deserve” and “retreat” into our tired ears because it sounds so good. But we do not need worldly rest. This type of self-care seems like something that happens outside of motherhood or as a reward. It says we work so we can earn a break.

But the gospel says something better for the mama in the marathon. True rest is an act of continued dependence on God–the one who placed the precious work of motherhood before you and is offering you everything you could possibly need to complete it. True rest isn’t what we earn as a result of our work; it’s what God commands us to do ALONGSIDE our work. It helps us remember we fully rely on God for motherhood, which fixes our eyes on Him as we continue to labor.

I don’t work to earn an hour at a coffee shop. I work as a pattern of obedience to God for something better than that. I run to win the race. And the finish line for me, is training up believers; molding Godly children to become disciples. That’s when all the training, and laboring, and running will give me the fullness of joy in Christ, and I’ll feel a sense of completion as I send my kids out into the world knowing they are equipped to face the hardships of life with the only one who can carry them through it all.

The funny thing is, I find that in training my children, the Lord is ACTUALLY training me. It makes me laugh sometimes…me being the one that actually needs the disciplining. But I’m thankful I can recognize it. And I’ve never acquired more knowledge and discernment through Christ like I have in the season of being called Mama. What a beautiful race we Mamas run. At the finish line, it will truly be worth it all.

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us. Hebrews 12:1

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