The Ideal Christian Mother
Interview with Helen Mann
November 3, 2021
[00:00:00] Laura: Hello, Helen, and welcome to unsung stories. Thank you so much for joining us.
[00:00:04] Helen: Hi, Laura. My pleasure. Just say
[00:00:07] Laura: that our listeners can get to know you a bit more. Could you tell us about you and your family and just what everyday life looks like for you?
[00:00:14] Helen: Yeah. I'm married to Chris, who is a pastor at our local church in the Hawkesbury in Sydney and to a sweet and sassy three year old girl and a very energetic and passionate one-year old boy.
And so I normally spend my weeks doing church and ministry stuff, supporting my husbands and then maybe a couple of play dates or catching up with people. Apart from that, I'm a bit of an introvert and a home buddy. So , my hands feel full with two little people. So I like to keep my weeks relatively simple.
[00:00:44] Laura: That's really great. Yeah. So you've been a mum for a few years now. How's that adjustment? It's an adjustment becoming a mom adjusting to becoming a mum of two. How's that all been for you?
[00:00:55] Helen: Very humbling and really wonderful at the same time. Our kids are such a joy and a blessing, but I think I've come to realize that God is doing most of the growing and maturing and disciplining in me as parents.
I think like most parents, I had a really idealistic picture of motherhood before kids came along and the reality can be a bit of a show. But I'm so much more aware of my sinfulness than ever before, but it's brought me into such a deeper and more real relationship with Jesus. So I need to trust him more than ever before with our precious to.
And in particular, I think a big part of that shock though, was realizing how much it affected my capacity. So just trying to do and be all the things that I thought I should be doing as a Christian woman, just aren't actually realistic for me. And I've come to realize, I don't think that's what faithfulness actually looks like either.
So a lot of adjusting my expectations.
[00:01:54] Laura: That's awesome. I think you are not alone in that, that realizes we are not doing everything that we thought we would be doing or should be doing. And I, I think we all have that picture of what that godly mom or for you. I think you might even have this added pressure being a pastor's wife, just what that looks like.
So let's chat through that ideal Christian woman. How do you see.
[00:02:19] Helen: Oh, it's so many things. I think there's so much pressure and expertise patients from so many different places now on social media, especially. Just having lots of play dates and catch up with both Christians. And non-Christians doing really amazing ins to where the activities with my kids, as well as them doing like a sport or something as well, making healthy and delicious meals, being able to work outside of the home.
And. Beautiful clean house and be fit and look nice and be laughed together and be godly. And that's
[00:02:55] Laura: just the stuff, email home. I think it is as Christians wealth and we need to be serving in ministry and we need to be making sure we're dropping meals off to every sick person or who's had a baby and our kids need to be reciting chapters of the bible by four, and we need to be.
Babysitting other people's kids and, just the list goes on of what this woman.
[00:03:16] Helen: Totally. Yeah. And as a pastor's wife as well, I feel like I should be doing those things that you talking about, like ministries and cooking meals for people who need it. Being like maybe being on a committee, being present in my husband's ministry where appropriate and all that kind of stuff.
And yeah, you're right. When you put it all together like that, it's just so obviously a ridiculous amount of pressure. They're all things I've genuinely felt guilty about at various times. And I just want to say obviously none of those things have bad things. They can all be really good things and often come from a place of genuinely wanting to love people.
And they are ways that we can really facially love our families and serve and glorify God. But I think it's so easy for at least my priorities to get me. And add deeper heart motivations to come from a place of pride or lack of trust or something else like that.
[00:04:13] Laura: Totally agree. So I think you've done what all of us do and built this picture of what motherhood should look like, or even specifically Christian motherhood.
Would you mind fleshing out what was coming up for you when you notice that you weren't actually able to be.
[00:04:30] Helen: Initially a lot of guilt, it seemed like everyone else could achieve so much more than I could. And I felt really inadequate, but digging deeper. And thankfully I've had a really amazing mentor to guide and help me on this journey for the last few years among others.
I came to realize that those expectations and pressure were primarily coming from a place of wanting to achieve things and please others, and keep up with worldly standards rather than pleasing. So I especially struggle with whether or not to return to work after our second baby, as I had done after I first.
But when I searched my heart, I knew that for me, it was more about meeting what I perceived, what other people's expectations or standards, and being more financially comfortable than anything else. So obviously that's really different for every family and there are really good reasons. But some people would go back to work or maybe a need to go back to work.
But I knew that just wasn't the case for me. So I had to lay that down and that was humbling, but it was also a real relief when I made that decision.
[00:05:38] Laura: That's really that's really helpful. So we've got this picture of what we're wanting motherhood to look like. What have you been learning about what God's idea of motherhood should look like?
Like what does he want for us?
[00:05:52] Helen: Remembering that even before my role as a wife or mum or anything else, I am firstly God's child, his beloved daughter. And it's an amazing privilege to be a parent now and experience some of that relationship for yourself in a whole new way. He loves me more deeply than I can set them.
All of me. And most of all, he wants me to enjoy and treasure. And last is hard, but he isn't pleased by me choosing the, how to puff because it looks more impressive or achieves more. He wants my heart and for me to place him above anything else, not the world. He wants me to have biblical priorities and biblical perspectives rather than worldly.
So knowing that I don't have to scramble to try and achieve all of those godly woman ideals or standards that I might have in my head is so freeing while I would love to make meals for all of those people who are struggling, just spending time praying for them while I'm feeding my baby or doing jobs around the house.
Can be just as loving and pleasing to God. So not trying to do all the good things, but choosing what is best. There's this really great Columbia Kennan song,
which sums it up so well, I love this song. It says Martha chose the good that Mary chose. There's the goods and there's the best we by faith, take the test, pray for help when you're stressed, leave the goods, choose the best. And I think that just sums it up. So helpfully for me. Thank you. Call it.
[00:07:28] Laura: Okay.
Good. Old column. Lots of my Bible education through him lately, actually. So what have you been doing with this tension that you're now living in? How you try to shift your heart to God's call for. Rather than now I do, because I imagine that's easier said than done.
[00:07:46] Helen: Yeah, definitely. I, so this quote from a lady called Glenna Marshall, which says, if you wait for a convenient time to read your Bible and pray, you'll miss years of growth and intimacy with Christ.
Opening your Bible to know God will never be convenient and your life will never sufficiently slow down for you to find the time rather than squeezing it in where you can consider building your life and structuring your days around intentional study of scripture. And I think that's so true. So for me to do all of this, especially in a season where my hands are full with little people, I have to make a real effort to slow down and say no to lots of good things.
So creating space in my week so that I can worship God and grow in my love and knowledge and lackness of him. Because if I don't actively prioritize that, then I'm so much more likely to get swept up in the way you think he has. So just knowing my capacity and setting my priorities. So church and Bible study are basically non-negotiables in our week, unless someone is sick and I try and make it a real effort to go to our church playgroup squeak, which has also an outreach message.
Even though I don't have the capacity to serve on that team at the moment though. I would love to. That's
[00:08:59] Laura: really helpful. Yeah. Sorry to interrupt. I love that you recognize your limit, that you don't have capacity to serve on the team, but you're still serving. By going. Yeah, it's so helpful to recognise that. That just showing up is a really helpful part of the mission ministry.
[00:09:16] Helen: we love it. I think it's great for my kids. And I think that's the way that I can meet up with non-Christian memes and Krisha mums at the same time. And yeah,
[00:09:23] Laura: it's because the people serving need good Christians, particularly if that's an outreach thing as well, they can't just do it all on their own.
They need you there to be serving alongside them, even if it's not in that formal capacity. Yeah, that's fine.
[00:09:37] Helen: Yeah. Then. I think just planning to have a day or two a week, I don't put anything extra on my calendar so that hopefully I can try and use some good nap, time to go a bit deeper in my quiet time.
I say that with embedded comments, because it's really actually quiet and. Just having that space to be a bit more present with God and my family throughout the day. And then yeah, the things to speed around that and just know that if I'm constantly running around from one thing to the next, I get stressed and frazzled and more tired and it does not have.
To be more godly. So my weeks usually feel very mundane and unimpressive, but I know that when there's space in my week, I'm usually much more likely to be walking with the Lord and growing in him and stopping to enjoy his goodness, which is what he wants just as well as that. I found reading Christian books has been a huge encouragement and help for me to grow spiritually.
So even though we're pretty much always taught my husband and I try to make time for that and prioritize that over, watching TV or scrolling on our phones. And obviously alongside Bible reading and prayer, I think that's been a big part of what's helped me reevaluate what faithfulness actually looks like for me and what is really pleasing to God.
So that's the goal, but it's definitely not what it looks like in reality every day. I'm not having these amazing mega quiet times that constantly fail and fall short in so many ways. But I just know that when I actively slow down my life and prioritize my time with God, I'm much more anchored in him.
And reflective on my life and able to come back to him quicker when I need to.
[00:11:23] Laura: Yeah, i love hearing that . what Christian books do you like reading? Do you have any recommendations for someone who's like? I don't really do that. I might want to start.
[00:11:33] Helen: Yeah. Gentle and lowly by Dane. Orland is so good.
The subtitle of it is the heart of Christ for sinners and suffers. And it's no matter what stage you're at. Yeah. I just think it's refreshing and just helps you remember who Jesus actually is. Not the picture that we can often build up in our head. Have you read?
[00:11:55] Laura: I'm probably three quarters of the way through.
I've actually been listening to it as an audio book and the person who's speaking just has this beautiful, smooth, and calm.
Yeah, that's a good one to listen to as well. And maybe not the best to listen to as you're being busy. But if you are just so tired that at the end of the day, you really can't read a book. We're all in our stages at times, but to just even put the book on and just listen to a chapter, it's dissolved.
Yeah, that's a good
[00:12:26] Helen: one. Yeah. And that's pretty achievable chapters. They're not to heat.
[00:12:30] Laura: Yeah, for sure. What other books
[00:12:32] Helen: would you recommend? So a praying life by Paul emailer, that one just really helped transform my understanding of prayer. And again, God's heart. Yeah. Yeah, that it doesn't have to be fancy pres, but it's just talking to God.
Like we would talk to someone else. So that was really helpful for my prayer life. And then two that I've recently read. So I'm just starting to think about, and I didn't know heaps about these authors yet. Some, this is not like a full recommendation on this. Laugh or anything, but they've been really helpful in kind of what I've been thinking about is the ruthless elimination of Harry by John mark coma and emotionally healthy spirituality by pay this goes out, or just in terms of not going at the world's pace, but slowing down and going at God's pace.
And yeah. Yeah, that sounds
[00:13:25] Laura: great. I've not heard of them. I love reading books, so I'll add them to my list. Yeah.
[00:13:31] Helen: And sorry, one more. I thought of family discipleship by Matt Chen and Adam Griffin. It's different in that. It's more of a resource, but that my husband had, I've found really helpful in thinking through how we disciple.
[00:13:46] Laura: That's great. Reformers bookshops, one of my favorite bookshops and they sent me that book last year and it was so good. It's a bit of a kick up the bum, but in not like a shaming or. I really appreciated
[00:13:56] Helen: it. Yeah. All the time. Oh, that's
[00:14:01] Laura: . Our listeners can get 15% off with the code UN SUNG. . They're a really good shop. They're really lovely too.
So as you've thought about all of this stuff, what do you reckon as a Christian mum today? We actually need to be reminding ourselves.
[00:14:18] Helen: Yeah, I think God loves you, even in all of your weakness and brokenness, he just wants you to come to him. I was listening to a Dana Orland talk the other day, and he was basically saying, if you don't know Jesus Christ as supremely gentle and lowly, we don't know him at all.
And he's the most accessible, approachable person. In the universe. And the one way he describes his heart in the Bible is gentle and Bailey. So yeah, when we really taste and see his goodness, we just can't get enough of it and everything the world has to offer just pales in comparison. When we truly understand he's hot and he's loved us, we can experience so much freedom and joy.
That will be standard suicide group. And of course we're living in a fallen world and we are constantly bombarded with messages that are contrary to this. So we just have to constantly keep coming back to Jesus and filling ourselves up on him. Yeah. So it will look really different for every mum, especially in different seasons.
The goal isn't to have this really amazing. Regular deep, quiet time or anything like that, but just to know God more each day to come to him, to enjoy him and lean upon him for his yoke is easy and his burden is light.
[00:15:42] Laura: That's beautiful. I like that. You said to enjoy him. I think so often we get so wrapped up in serving him or knowing him or.
All the things really that we can do, but to enjoy him and how that joy actually speaks volumes to the people who are observing our life.
[00:16:00] Helen: Yeah. Yeah. I'm a very math person by nature. And so it's, yeah, that's been a big lesson for me and it's hard to stop and slow down, but it just, the more I learn about God and the more I see.
That's what he wants is my heart and to enjoy.
[00:16:20] Laura: So how would you encourage the Christian mum who just feels like she's falling short of the standard that she's either putting herself or that's the culture in her church or that she's just got this perception of who she needs to be.
What would you remind her about?
[00:16:36] Helen: I think just do away with that standard and start completely afresh by going back to the Bible and understanding what God's standard for your life is and focus on that, pray that God would reveal more and more of himself to you. And then two Bible verses, which I think.
I hold very closely in motherhood. Two Corinthians chapter 12, verse nine, which says, but he said to me, my grace is sufficient for you. My power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. And also Matthew chapter six, verse 33, which says, but seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added to.
So that's the way that we can be the best mom and wife and friends and Christian and whatever else we are is by seeking God. First.
[00:17:34] Laura: That's really beautiful, thank you.
[00:17:35] Helen: heavenly father that you are our ultimate good. And you anyway, everything that we need, thank you that you love us and you long for us to come to you in all of our brokenness. Thank you that you are faithful and true. You are a strength and solid rock. You are our joy and our hope, even in the darkest valley.
Thank you for the gift of salvation through Jesus and for the holy spirit to help and to guide us. Thank you for this gift of motherhood and Lord, please help us as we raise these precious ones, help us to clean to you and to seek you above everything. Help us to show advocates how good you are and bring us to our knees in prayer and help us to see more of your beauty and your glory in each day.
[00:18:24] Laura: And.