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moremoreGrace Fellowship Church in Toronto, Ontario. He is a book reviewer, co-founder of Cruciform Press, and has written a number of books including The Next Story: Life and Faith After the Digital Explosion (Zondervan, 2011), Visual Theology: Seeing and Understanding the Truth About God (Zondervan, 2016),...more
As we approach Mother’s day in this disruptive spring of 2020, let’s consider the effort moms are putting in just to keep our society running as well as possible. Ron Deal, Laura Petherbridge, Kim Anthony, and Tim Challies share about the enduring influence of mothers.
Michelle: Have you ever had those feelings—you know, when life gets so dark, all you want to do is get out? My friend, Kim Anthony, recently shared a story of a single mom who had those exact feelings.
Kim: One of the women came up to me afterwards; and she said, “Ms. Kim,”—she said—“When I came here this morning, I didn’t have any hope. What I’m going through with my children’s father is so bad that I was nursing my child, trying to figure out how I could take his life and my life as well.” She said, “But after hearing your story and your mom’s story, I now see that God has a plan for me! And God has a plan for my child.” She said, “Ms. Kim, I think I can do this! I think I can go on.”
Michelle: Moms, God does have a plan for you. Today, we’re going to talk about stepmoms, single moms, and moms from history on this edition of FamilyLife This Week.
Welcome to FamilyLife This Week. I’m Michelle Hill. Today, we’re going to talk about moms. To get us sort of in that mom-feeling and mom-remembering, I’m going to throw out some quotes from some famous people, like Robert Browning, who said that, “Motherhood: all love begins and ends there.” Abraham Lincoln said these words: “All that I am or hope to be, I owe it to my angel mother.”
And then there was The Golden Girls; do you remember The Golden Girls? I kind of, every once in a while, sort of peeked in, you know, when my Dad was watching. Anyway, one of The Golden Girls said this: “It’s not easy being a mother. If it were, fathers would do it.” You know, moms, you are the glue that keep it all together.
We are just a couple of weeks out from Mother’s Day, but I wanted to spend some time today talking about moms. I’ve heard it said that motherhood is the best thing that can happen to a woman: your heart is so full, and that joy is just so in-exquenchable—is that a word?—we’ll make it a word today: “in-exquenchable”! The sleep—well, that won’t happen until they’re out of the house—but until then, you have those moments you treasure: their first steps; their first bicycle ride without training wheels; or they hit their first homerun at tee ball and run the wrong way.
But what happens when that motherhood thing doesn’t come in the order that you had planned in your planner book of life?—you know, like becoming a stepmom. Blended family expert, Ron Deal, and Laura Petherbridge, also a blended family expert, talked with Dennis Rainey and Bob Lepine about the mandate that many women have and the difficulty that comes with blending a family. Here’s Ron.
[Previous FamilyLife Today® Broadcast]
Ron: We have, in our society/in our culture, what we call the “motherhood mandate.” That is simply the idea that women are the emotional connectors in the family: they’re the ones who care-take; they’re also the ones who connect emotionally with people in the family; kind of the centerpiece, if you will.
Well, if a stepmother comes in and tries to take that center place—there’s already a mother, even if she’s deceased—there’s already a mother. She may feel like that the expectation of her is that she becomes the emotional connector. She may believe that that’s really what she wants and also, by the way, that takes care of her; because she moves from an outside role to an inside role once she’s emotionally-connected with everybody.
Ron: But as she tries to move into that place and move mom out, you know, that’s a huge mistake.
Dennis: A lot of resistance occurs there.
Ron: Absolutely. It just emboldens the resistance, I think, within children, whether they be children or adults; you know?
Dennis: As I was reading through your book, I was struck by the quotes from stepmoms that you have in there. Every one of the quotes, it seems, drips with emotion—
Dennis: —disappointment, discouragement, unmet expectations. This is really what you were attempting to do as you wrote this; you wanted to come alongside stepmoms and help them understand what normal is?
Laura: That’s right, because stepmothers, typically, feel very lonely. They feel very isolated; they feel ostracized and outside of the family circle. They feel very rejected; sometimes, even by their husband.
What the goal, particularly in the beginning of the book, is to show other stepmoms: “We understand your pain. These feelings are perfectly normal, and there is a way to overcome them.”
Ron: Yes, and really, what we are saying is: “You can be a great stepmother/have a wonderful step-family relationship. It’s something you grow into. The family will grow together over time. We just want to get your expectations set.”
For that woman, who is in the dating experience—looking down the road, thinking about marrying a man, who has children—“What’s my role? What’s my place going to be?” We want her expectations in the right place; so just to understand that, and to go in with her eyes open, and her expectations in the right place sets her up for greater success.
Dennis: Laura, as you started your journey as a stepmom, undoubtedly—well, you admit in your book—you had high expectations; and you were instantly disappointed. How did it manifest itself with your husband’s children?
Laura: Yes, I really think, you know, I was going to come in and be this wonderful Christian role model in their life, and influence them, and get them in church. I just had all these expectations of what a wonderful Christian example I was going to be for them. Then, when it gets down to the day-to-day stuff, it’s just so different than what you think it’s going to be. It’s just so much harder than you think it’s going to be.
Stepmoms often feel guilty that they don’t love their stepchildren as much as they either think they should or as much as they love their own children. Now, I didn’t have my own biological children, so I didn’t have that comparison; but other stepmoms tell me all the time, “I feel so guilty, because I don’t love his kids in exactly the same way that I love my own.” I think that’s one of the first things: is to lower your expectations for the role that you are going to be or become in the lives of these children. That’s what I had to do.
Dennis: Take us to, early in your marriage, when you had to learn that. I mean, what was one of the first situations that occurred—at the grassroots level, in the mundane, everyday life that stepmoms face—that you had to face?
Laura: Yes, I had to realize certain things were not a hill to die on. For example, I was going to get us all eating really healthy and having these really healthy meals. Well, my stepkids weren’t doing that in their other home/in their biological home; so of course, when they came to my home, there was going to be resistance to that. It wasn’t my job to try to change that in their life.
You know, they have a mom; they have a dad. Those are the two people in their lives that should be seeing that they’re eating healthy, or going to church, or any of those things. It wasn’t my job. I had to learn to let go of the things that were not my job as a stepmother, and to only focus on becoming as godly of an example, and influence, and role model in their lives as they would let me become.
Dennis: So take us to the dinner table. You’ve got kids who won’t eat it—pushing back.
Dennis: Do you engage your husband, at this point, and ask him to step in? Or do you call a timeout, step into another room, and have a little caucus between husband and wife and say, “How are we going to handle this?” [Laughter]
Laura: Yes, it has to become between the stepmom and her husband, “How important is this in our home to you, as the dad?”—you know? Then, depending on how important it is to him, that’s how much further you can take it.
Ron: For her to go kind of behind closed doors, as you suggested—and have that pow-wow with her husband and figure out what the standard is going to be; and then, together, present that standard—that position of unity is going to actually get things done. It’s going to empower the stepmother to be able to follow through.
Michelle: Ron Deal and Laura Petherbridge have authored a book together, entitled The Smart Stepmom. They are both a wealth of helpful information if you are a stepmom in the process of blending a family. We have a link on our website to that entire interview and also some of their helpful resources—that’s FamilyLifeThisWeek.com; that’s FamilyLifeThisWeek.com.
You know, single moms have a lot on their shoulders. They are the disciplinarian, the nurturer, the teacher, the leader, the fun-giver—if they have time—and the provider. Let’s just put our head in their space. Many single moms work full-time, and they parent full-time. It’s exhausting and overwhelming! And she—maybe that’s you—gets home from a long, frustrating day at work; there’s laundry that needs to be done, dinner that needs to be cooked, homework that needs to be checked, baths that need to happen. Oh, wait! Wait! What about that baseball game, or the dance lessons, or the other activities? Where do they fit in? Who has the time?
You know, Kim Anthony knows that life well. She’s a speaker, author, life coach, and gymnast. But to many single moms, she is a rock and encourager; because she sees their struggles and knows their pain and their joys, having been raised by a single mom. Kim shared with me about what she does to encourage single moms across our nation. Here’s Kim.
Kim: What I do is an outreach during the NBA All-Star Weekend, each year in February. What I do is I go into that All-Star city, and I find single moms from under-resourced communities, who are in need of encouragement and resources, to help them to overcome poverty. We invite them to Athletes in Action’s All-Star Breakfast. They get to spend time in this room with retired NBA players and other businessmen and women from around the city.
We honor them; at one point in the program, I have them stand up, so that people can see who these women are. As a co-emcee, I make sure that they know we’re not celebrating fatherlessness; but we’re celebrating the fact that these women chose to have their children and to do all they can to care for them and provide a better life for them. Kevin Durant did a video for us, helping us to show people and to make plain to people, how important it is for us to celebrate these moms.
Kim: And then, after the breakfast, we have a VIP reception for the moms. They’re always caught off guard; because they’re thinking other people are the VIPs, like the pro-NBA players.
Kim: But, no; they are the VIPs. I connect them with local resources in their city; so that they can have ongoing care and support, long after the event is over.
This year, Moody Bible Institute has agreed to provide free counseling for these women. These are women in Chicago, who have experienced trauma. As I went through the city, interviewing people who work with them, I asked, “What’s the biggest need?” I expected them to say something quite different; but they said, “The biggest need these women have is counseling.” So I searched around the city, and met up with Deb Gorton at Moody. As God would have it, they were in a place where they were looking to reach out to the community a bit more. We were able to get them to come alongside us to provide care for these women and their families.
I am so excited, because I get to help resource these women; hopefully, helping to be a part of them coming out of poverty as a way to honor my own mother.
Kim: The reason I have such a passion for single moms is because I watched my mother work two jobs—three jobs if you include her cleaning the gym after practice so that I could train—and it was very difficult for her. I would come home, and there were eviction notices on the door. I would rush to pull them off before my classmates would see them. I would hear her crying at night, through the door, trying to figure out how to put food on the table/how to keep a roof over our heads.
Even in the midst of her struggle in poverty, I saw that she, in front of me, was always positive. She was always optimistic, and she taught me to be the same. I watched her rise out of poverty and achieve her dreams. When I share with single moms my mom’s story and my own story and how—not only did my mother achieve her dreams—but she was able to look and see some talents that God put in me—
Michelle: She helped you achieve yours!
Kim: She absolutely helped me to achieve mine, so I encourage them to do the same.
We had our first outreach in Los Angeles in 2018, and one of the women came up to me afterwards; and she said, “Ms. Kim,”—she said—“When I came here this morning,”—this is to the All-Star Moms outreach—“I didn’t have any hope. What I’m going through with my children’s father is so bad that I was nursing my child, trying to figure out how I could take his life and my life as well.”
She said, “But after hearing your story and your mom’s story, I now see that God has a plan for me! And God has a plan for my child.” She said, “Ms. Kim, I think I can do this! I think I can go on.” In my mind, I said, “If she is the only one who was reached today, it was worth it.” So my heart is to advocate for single moms.
Kim: And I’m not talking about single moms—who are in that situation because they hate men or because they purposely want to be there—but single moms, who are there for various situations/various reasons, who really need the hope that only God can offer.
Michelle: Kim Anthony, honoring her mom by creating a ministry that reaches out to single moms. Wow! You can tell that her mom meant the world to her. It’s exciting to see what Kim has done in reaching out and helping other single moms.
Hey, we need to take a break; but when we come back, we’re going to talk about some historical moms and the common thread that runs through all Christian moms. We’ll be back in two minutes. Stay tuned.
[Radio Station Spot Break]
Michelle: Welcome back to FamilyLife This Week. I'm Michelle Hill. We are talking about moms this week, and we’ve heard about some overlooked moms: the single mom and the stepmom. Now, I want to turn our attention to some moms with historical significance. You may not have heard their names—but their sons, you’ve probably heard of—like the mom of John Newton, or the mom of Hudson Taylor, or Augustine, just to name a few.
Well, Tim Challies—pastor, author, blogger—has recently written a little book about the women who shaped the men who have changed the world. It might interest you to know that many times it’s the moms who have had the hand in shaping the spiritual lives of their sons. Here’s Tim.
Tim: I had been doing a lot of historical reading for other projects; and I kept coming across this theme of men, whose foremost spiritual influence in life was not their father, but their mother.
Michelle: That’s interesting.
Tim: Yes, I found some of what we would regard as great men and started tracing that theme. I found there are actually quite a lot of men, who look back on life and say, “I loved my father,”—in many cases; or maybe didn’t have a father, who was active in their life—but somehow, mother was the foremost spiritual influence.
Even speaking, personally, I’ve always been closer to my mother than to my father. She was probably more of a spiritual influence on me in that way than my father was. My sisters, I think, were more influenced by my father; I’m more by my mother, so it really resonated with me. I just decided to keep researching/ keep looking down that trail.
I think the biggest lesson is simply this: “Mom, you can and often will be the most formative spiritual influence in the life of your children, whether they’re boys or they’re girls.”
Michelle: Why do you think that is?—that they can be the spiritual influence more than the father.
Tim: I think it’s because they spend, typically/often, spend more time with their children than the father, especially in those early years. But also, it’s just the way it works: the way personalities click or the way people work together. You feel closer, sometimes, to your father; or you feel closer to your mother. Again, there are some girls, who are very close to dad; there are some boys, who are very close to mom.
Now, there’s an interesting thing that happens. We have names to describe boys, who are close to their mom, and those are usually bad names.
Tim: We don’t quite have the same thing to describe girls, who are close to their dads. We look to those dads and say, “You’re doing something well, that your daughters so love and admire you.” But I think we’ve got to be very careful that we don’t think it’s necessarily a sign of something wrong if our boys really love their mom, and are very dependent on their mom, or learn a lot from their mom.
Michelle: Who are some of the three moms of Christian leaders that you wrote about that we can really learn from?—some examples.
Tim: Sure, yes. I did the whole sweep of history. I found the very earliest one would be Timothy, who we learn about in the Bible—Paul’s protégé—his father isn’t there; apparently, didn’t seem to be a great part of his childhood or, at least, his spiritual formation in his childhood. It was his mother and his grandmother, who are commended by Paul, for having been the influence in Timothy.
Skip forward in history; we can come to Saint Augustine, whose mother was the Christian in his life, and who was constantly praying for him. Skip forward again, and you can come to some great men like Hudson Taylor, or John Newton, or Charles Spurgeon. Skip forward to the present day—and even John Piper would say that his mother was a great, formative spiritual influence on him—in that case, largely because his father traveled so much that his mom was the one who was primarily there with him and for him. So, all throughout history, we can find this theme.
Michelle: And all throughout history—I was noticing as I was reading your book—there were a lot of moms, who wore out their knees and wore out the floors, praying over their sons. God honored that!
Tim: Yes, that was probably the most prominent theme of all. I tried to look at each mom through a different theme: a mom who persevered, a mom who prayed, a mom who worked hard—all these different themes—but really, the most prominenttheme that crossed all of them was prayer: the role of prayer in a mom’s life, praying for her children.
I think, if you see it from God’s perspective, of course, a mother’s prayers count for so much in the life of her children; so whatever else moms are doing, the greatest thing they can do for their children is pray for them. Plead for their souls before the Lord.
Michelle: So encourage moms today—if they’ve got a wayward child, or let’s just say a lazy child—encourage them with: in their prayers, what do they need to be praying? How do they need to be praying?
Tim: Yes, I think the theme was more than what they prayed, just the perseverance of their prayers. It seems that God calls us to pray, not necessarily so we get the answers to our prayers, but so that we are conformed to His will. Of course, you could say there are many mothers, who prayed all their lives for their children, and haven’t seen God answer that prayer; but I trust that those mothers have come, through prayer, to see God as good: to understand or submit to the purposes of God, whether their child is saved or not.
But in the case of these stories, yes, we see mom laboring in prayer, asking that God would bring about circumstances in the life of that person. Angela Yuan was praying that Christopher would just come to the end of himself: if he needed to be sick/if he needed to be arrested. Whatever happened, she was praying that God would strip those things away from him, so he would have no self-reliance anymore. I think we can pray boldly before God in that way.
And then I also think there is value in praying incrementally before God—so this idea that it’s one thing to say, “God, please save my child”; but God wants us to pray in faith. I’m not sure we all have faith to pray, “God, save my child,” with real conviction that God will answer that prayer—so maybe what we ought to be doing is praying incremental prayers: “God, please lead my child to another Christian,” or “God, please open an opportunity for me to share the gospel with my son.” I can pray that prayer with faith; and once God answers that prayer, then I can pray for the next thing—all along this chain—that we trust leads to the salvation of that boy or girl.
Michelle: And like you said, those incremental prayers help us to trust God more and more as we see him answering those incremental prayers/trusting Him for the bigger and better things.
I want to go back to your mom. You said she was a big influence on you/on your spiritual growth. So just tell me about her. Who was she?
Tim: Yes, well, my mom was saved as a college student. She had come under deep conviction of sin and was really just looking around for somebody, who could help her with this sin problem she knew she had. She would go to various religious people; and they would tell her, “You’re not a sinner; you’re a good person.”
Yet she was deeply convicted that she was evil at heart. Eventually, the Lord led her to a young man, who led her to some new Christians, who shared the gospel with her. Immediately, in a moment, she got it; and she trusted in Christ. She came out of that background, having been deeply aware of her own sin/having been saved dramatically by the hearing of the gospel.
For her, it was very important to five of us/five children—it was so important that she didn’t allow us to trust in the fact that we were born into a Christian home/that we had Christian parents. She wanted us to have a personal relationship with the Lord—to push beyond being good church kids—and to truly put our faith in Jesus Christ.
Her task now, as a grandmother/as an older woman, she says is just to pray her grandkids, now, into the kingdom. She’s committing herself to that, and the Lord is answering those prayers.
Michelle: Tim Challies, talking about his mom, and the legacy that she has left for her kids and grandkids in prayer. Tim has written a couple of blog posts—actually, a few blog posts—on moms of great men. We’ll have a link on our website to some of those posts at FamilyLifeThisWeek.com; that’s FamilyLifeThisWeek.com.
While I was talking with Tim, I kept thinking about the song, and also the poem, The Hand that Rocks the Cradle Rules the World. It’s a poem by William Ross Wallace; it was written back in the 1800s. The third verse goes like this:
Woman, how divine your mission
Here upon our natal sod;
Keep, oh keep, the young heart open
Always to the breath of God.
All true trophies of all the ages
Are from mother-love impearled,
For the hand that rocks the cradle
Is the hand that rules the world.
Moms, you’re a very important piece to our individual history and our journeys. If you have a mom, please remember to pick up a card, or maybe something more, to celebrate her in the coming weeks.
Hey, thanks for listening! I want to thank the president of FamilyLife®, David Robbins, along with our station partners around the country. A big “Thank you!” today to our engineer today, James Youngblood. Thanks to Marques Holt, producer. Justin Adams is our mastering engineer, and Megan Martin is our production coordinator, all who love their mommies!
Our program is a production of FamilyLife Today in Little Rock, Arkansas; and our mission is to effectively develop godly families who change the world one home at a time.
I'm Michelle Hill, who also loves her mommy; and I’m inviting you to join us again next time for another edition of FamilyLife This Week.
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