I had a difficult childhood growing up. I didn’t have a mother I felt safe with emotionally. I didn’t grow up hearing words of approval and grace but criticism and guilt. Growing up as the oldest in a single-parent family meant that I grew up fast, taking care of myself and my younger sister.
But God used my life experiences to strengthen my faith in Him and draw me closer to His Word. Still, when it was my turn to become a mom, I didn’t have a role model in parenting the way God intended. Instead, my model for motherhood became an ideal: to be the mom I wished I had had. I cobbled together an image of a mom who would always comfort, help, support and give counsel, always be patient, and always be there.
I wanted to be a loving mother so passionately that I put my desires and emotional well-being last. I carried my childhood mindset into motherhood: if I just work hard enough at it and push through, everyone will be happy and all will be well. But I soon learned that motherhood wasn’t a job God wanted me to perform and trying to live up to an ideal made my life as a mom unsustainable.
I applied the same self-critical voice in my mothering as I had heard in my childhood, and although I was doing a good job, I felt weary. I didn’t experience joy and peace in my heart.
God looked at my practice of negative self-talk and began replacing it with compassion and whispers of love. He invited me to prioritize rest, to learn to receive His love, grace, understanding and compassion for myself first before I pour out to others.
Instead of criticizing and shaming us, God wants us to heal with rest. As I searched the Scriptures and started taking care of myself better, I found God’s whispers of love renewing my mothering. I hope they will do the same for you as well.
Let your soul relax into these three whispers of God’s love for you:
1. Be very gentle with yourself. God’s love is gentle.
Your right hand upholds me; And your gentleness makes me great.
Psalms 18:35 (NASB)
Don’t be hard on yourself. Take a breath and exhale into the loving arms of Jesus and let Him whisper over you, It’s okay. I’ve got you. I understand you. I will take care of you. See the gentle love in His eyes for you and know you are His beloved.
2. Give yourself grace. God’s love is unconditionally patient.
Now the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ Jesus,
will personally restore, establish, strengthen, and support you.
1 Peter 5:10 (HCSB)
Are you walking through something hard and feel the weight of your children’s journey? God whispers, Come, lean into Me. Let Me wrap you up in the warmth of My unlimited grace. You are doing so many amazing things that are hard and worth it, and you don’t have to do it all perfectly. He is not impatient as you learn, grow, and make mistakes. You are cherished by Jesus who is willing and eager to help you, love you, and delight in you.
3. Speak kindly to yourself. God cares about the words you say about yourself.
Kind words are like honey—
sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.
Proverbs 16:24 (NLT)
Do you tend to be critical of yourself? I do. We put on a magnifying glass to review the week or day, agonizing over what we could’ve, would’ve, and should’ve done. But God sees and celebrates every little thing you did, and He is proud of you. Let His kind words wash over you, and speak His words over yourself.
Michele Morin says
Like you, I learned mothering by the seat of my pants, the prayers of my heart, and with my own idealism as a harsh task master. So thankful we’ve learned the rhythms of grace so that we can speak words of kindness to our children and to ourselves.
Bonnie Gray says
Thanks for sharing, Michele! Bless you for the heart and prayers you’ve poured out in your loving on your children. May you feel God’s pleasure in all you are and hear His gentle whispers of love for you! Love the phrases you use: “mothering by the seat of our pants” with “prayers in our hearts”, as we learn the “rhythms of grace”.
Beautiful things to remember. As women, we somehow feel responsible for everyone’s happiness. That is a tough roll to fill. I too, lacked a roll model and tend to be critical and second guess myself. God’s grace is sufficient.
Bonnie Gray says
“we somehow feel responsible for everyone’s happiness.” Esp for those who have kind and sensitive hearts. So true, Carol. It’s wonderful to hear these whispers feel beautiful to your soul. Thank you for sharing, Carol. May you feel His loving and tender gaze on you and the touch of his gentle hand in yours today.
Perfect post that spoke directly to my heart and mind this morning. Being a single parent has been a blessing in many ways but at this time of the year and graduation upon us in 2 weeks, my emotions are all over the place. I am exhausted emotionally, physically, and financially and find myself holding on by a thread. All three whispers of encouragement are exactly what I needed to hear today. Thank you for writing this for me :-).
Blessed and grateful,
Bonnie Gray says
I have a special place in my heart for single moms, because I loved my mom so very deeply and saw how very hard it was for her to carry the burden alone. Thank you for sharing, Diana. May you feel His loving arms wrap around you and the gentle touch of his gentle hand in yours today. Be sure to be very kind and gentle with yourself as you go through this season of change, as memories of all the love you’ve poured out on your child surface. God cares for you. Your heart and well-being are worth all the love, taking care of and nurturing.
All of them. I needed someone else to say she is figuring out mothering as she goes along, by God’s grace. I too have an unsafe mother, who I am still learning to draw boundaries with. Reading this today I’m realizing I’ve used an ideal as a standard more than I was aware. Today I’m asking God to show me how to be gentle with myself, give myself grace, and speak kindly to myself. And I’m asking Him, what does this look like in my day-to-day life? Lord, please teach me and silence my inner critic.
Thank you for posting about mothering from scratch!
Bonnie Gray says
Yes, I am – and we are all figuring out mothering as we go along – and we’ve got each other to encourage each other! 🙂 It’s so powerful when we can share our heart an stories and encourage each other. Thank you for putting into words so beautiful what you feel God is stirring in your heart as you read. It’s beautiful how it’s led you to a prayer that’s so vulnerable and I can imagine Jesus tenderly drawing you close to him to whisper, “I’m here. I love you. I will help you.” I wrote a book called “Whispers of Rest” that has 40 different ways that you can be gentle with yourself, give yourself grace and hear God’s loving words to you. It’s the same way I learned a new way of of self care and soul care. I hope you can enjoy it. Drop me a line if you read it and let me know how it encourages you! “Dear Jesus, thank you for Annie and how your gently touching her heart with you love and understanding. Put ideas, information, a desire to explore what this might look like her in her life – to speak kindly to herself and let you love on her, as she gives herself grace. Bring someone on her path who is loving and kind, like you to share with her and encourage her. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
Thank-you for putting such an uplifting post together. We are not in control as Mother’s, of how things will work out. We can only try our best, and by the Grace, and love of God, we will get through it.
Have a blessed day all,
Bonnie Gray says
Thank you, Penny. May you feel His loving arms wrap around you and the gentle touch of his hand in yours today.
All of these ring with me, but especially number 3… I tend to think and say bad things about myself. Thank you for this post
Bonnie Gray says
Thanks for sharing, Joy. It’s so encouraging when we can share our hearts. May you feel God’s loving arms wrap around you and the gentle touch of his hand in yours today.
Joan Moore says
While I have been blessed with a wonderful and Godly Mother, your words today are still something we all need to hear and take to heart. I still struggle with being too critical of myself (it is self imposed). I need to give it all to Him.
Blessings to you and thank you for the gentle reminders of His Grace!!!
Bonnie Gray says
Yes, these are beautiful whispers for all women, for God loves on his daughters! And how wonderful that you’ve been blessed by a godly and wonderful mother! Thanks for sharing Joan! May you feel God’s loving arms wrap around you and the gentle touch of his hand in yours today!
Hattie Damon says
As a foster mom of more than 25 years this post really resonated with me and what I see in the beautiful teen girls I’ve been privileged to parent over the years. Many times their precious faces come before me and I lift them up before the throne of grace asking God to give each one an abundant measure of His perfect love, tender mercies and immeasurable grace as they learn and yearn to do/be better than their predecessors.
Thank you for sharing.
I plan to forward this post on to some of ‘my’ girls. Blessings to you in your continuing journey with parenting.
Bonnie Gray says
Wow, bless you, Hattie!! I have a special place in my heart for foster parents – they are pouring so much love and being God’s hearts and hands – and your voice is God’s tender voice loving them and renewing their hearts with new memories of kindness and grace. May you feel as beloved and beautiful as you are this moment! Happy Mother’s Day week, friend!
Thank you Bonnie and bless you for these very encouraging words today. I needed them in many more ways than I can possibly communicate. As I was reading I took a deep breath and felt the anxiety begin to lessen as I relaxed, like a drink of cool water to a very tired and thirsty soul. I am going to look for your book Whispers of Rest. The Lord bless you!!!
Bonnie Gray says
I can’t wait to hear how God will be whispering words of love and peace as you read Whispers of Rest! Drop me a line and let me know how it touches your heart when you begin reading. You can get free prayer podcasts and books study videos for Whispers of Rest at whispersofrest.com. How wonderful it is to breathe in a moment of peace, Donna! Thanks for sharing! May you feel God’s loving arms wrap around you and the gentle touch of his hand in yours today!
Rebecca Jones says
I think they all do. And I had an image of what a mother should be. Mine, without her childhood baggage. I was rough on myself, and at times with her, trying to get her to believe better of herself. But we all have to receive and see for ourselves His grace and rest, and then we step into His peace. I hope you Had a Happy Mother’s Day Bonnie.
Denise Pass says
Thank you for this, Bonnie. God is kind and merciful and we are often not that way with ourselves. You make such a good point about bringing our childhood mindset into adulthood. Praise God He gently can pry us from such a mindset. 🙂
Nancy Ruegg says
The second whisper, “Give yourself grace” resonates with me. I so appreciate the scripture and the particular translation you chose to accompany that “whisper.” To think that God “will personally restore, establish, strengthen, and support” is incredibly uplifting. Praise him for his ever-present attentiveness. Your words, Bonnie, also provide great encouragement: “You don’t have to do it all perfectly. He is not impatient as you learn, grow, and make mistakes. You are cherished by Jesus who is willing and eager to help you, love you, and delight in you.” Such glorious truths! They’re worth copying and posting, perhaps on the bathroom mirror–that last sentence especially. A powerful battle cry to start the day. Thank you, Bonnie!
Thanks for this encouragement today, Bonnie. I too have spent my motherhood trying to learn how to be a mother in the absence of a true model of motherhood. God’s love is definitely a place where a ‘soul can relax.’ Amazing how quickly we humans defer to restlessness instead of basking in His loving-kindness, isn’t it? We make it harder than it needs to be! Lovely reminder; thank you. xoxo
Thank you for this. I am very hard on myself as a parent, but God has shown me time and time again His grace and mercy.
Bonnie I appreciate your transparency in all your writing. My daughter will become a Mother in the next month and I am trying to give her encouragement to embrace the Joy, but my words fail at the enormity of the journey. She is one of three that I was blessed to parent with her Daddy and our Dear Savior….prayers prayers and more prayers.
Beth Williams says
These are wise & comforting words. I don’t have children, but am very hard on myself all the time. Been working a part-time job for 1.5 years & still learning “the ropes”. Each mistake I make has me cringe. I hear “stupid you know better.” Then the devil says “stupid, dumb, not smart”. All my life choices come crashing down on me & I feel down. I almost feel like I’ve let God down-not followed the path He had for me. Feel that He was the one who gave me this part-time job to still be available for my aging dad. Your book Whispers of Rest has helped me to give myself soul care. The best one is breath prayers. I can stop, breathe & pray for help in my job. We are all hard on ourselves & you have given us three ways to do soul care.
Susan G. says
I think I need every single one! 😉
I loved this Bonnie.
Thank you for always being the voice with the soft, sweet spirit we all need to hear.
Blessings to you!
Rhonda G. says
I, too, share a maternal history with all of you. I do love my mother dearly, however,I can never do enough for her. She is now battling the onset of Alzheimers dementia and her expectations from me are overwhelming. I have a family of my own but in her mind her needs and expectations come first, as always. I am literally exhausted on many levels.! The old saying, “A mother can take care of her 10 children, but her 10 children cannot take care of their mother,” exemplifies my life right now. Reading the things you all share gives me a momentary respite from the demands of my current circumstances. Blessings to you all.