How to Repent: A Follow Up Post for "To Every Mom Everywhere"

In my last post, I shared the three most common responses to our failures in motherhood.  As I prepare to share this follow up post, I find myself needing this message more than ever.  I find myself in the midst of one of the busiest months this year (and that’s saying a lot because it’s been a busy year!).  I find myself almost eight months pregnant.  And I find myself edgy, cranky, and generally uncomfortable.  Making it a challenge to walk out peaceful motherhood.  So, even today, I have had to remember the truth about failure in motherhood and walk out God’s design for what to do with it: repent. 

Following on the heels of my last post (click here to read), let me just share that I was the classic justifier for so long.  But as I began to see how wrong I actually was, as I began to admit my failures, I so often found myself stuck in the wallowing category.  I’d feel such pain and regret over my mistakes…specifically my mistakes in motherhood.  The moments that I have failed one or both of my boys are some of the most painful, weighty moments of my life.  The last thing any mom wants to do is fail her child.  The ache is so great.

Only in the last year or so have I discovered the hopeful and freeing reality of repentance.  The restorative reality of praying for healing amidst my failures…healing in me (to be transformed from those places of failure) and healing in my boys (for the places I have failed them, hurt them, or let them down).  It’s not that I don’t feel sorrow over the times I let my boys down…I do…but I have somewhere to go with that sadness, with that regret, with that pain.  The process I am learning is simple, but it is bringing me hope that maybe, just maybe there will be healing in the places that I mess this mom-thing up.

I thought I’d share some of the practical pieces of what I do to walk in a reality of repentance and transformation (specifically in the realm of motherhood).  In everyday life, this repentance reality doesn’t necessarily follow in the specific order I am about to lay out or even play out as formulaic as it looks below, these are just all the pieces that mesh together as I process, repent, and pray over my failures.  These flow from the following truth:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9 (ESV)

What Living in the Repentance Reality Looks Like for Me:

I identify and name the failure.  I am specific about it (whether in prayer or in journaling).  I admit to myself what I did wrong.

I repent…always to God.  Often to the child also.  I say what I did wrong, where I messed up and I express that I don’t want to keep doing that thing. There are things that I’ve done or looked back on, though, that wouldn’t make sense to my child at his specific stage, so those places of repentance (at least at certain stages) are between God and me.  I’ve journaled them and hope to share them someday in the future at a more appropriate stage.

I ask for forgiveness…always from God.  And again from my child, too, if the topic fits his stage.  I am quick to ask my children for forgiveness, even for the smallest wrong.  It sounds like this, “You’re right, that was wrong of me to _________.  Will you please forgive me?”  or “I am so sorry that I hurt you just then.  Will you please forgive me?”  Sometimes it’s simply a harsh word that could have been said so much more gently.  It is so humbling and at the same time such a powerful experience to ask your young child for forgiveness.  

I pray to Jesus for healing over that area of my life and in my relationship with my child in regard to that failure.  Sometimes I pray alone for healing, journaling my heart-longings to not stay stuck in that messed up pattern I keep exhibiting.  Praying for Jesus to heal that part of my relationship with my child, knowing that my mistakes cause areas of brokenness in mine and my child’s relationship. Sometimes I pray with my child, usually a simple prayer asking for Jesus to heal what I did wrong and to reconnect my child and I. 

I pray that Jesus will change me, transform me on a heart level.  This is huge for me.  This is not me just trying to be a better mom, but me asking Jesus to actually change my heart. 

I make every effort to live in line with that transformation, attempting to listen to the Spirit to give me insight about how not to walk right back into that same broken pattern, that same way of messing up. 

When my heart is still breaking, even after repenting, asking for forgiveness and healing and transformation, and I am tempted to wallow and not move forward into hope, I will often ask God to speak His truth over me…how He sees me, how He is at work…I have even asked Jesus to show me where He was in that moment that I failed my child (and doing so is such a powerful experience of knowing that He never left me nor my child).  This is the faith part of walking out repentance: trusting that God is actually engaged in the process of healing your failures when you hand them over to Him. 

What This Looked Like Today:

Yesterday was not my best day.  My husband is the middle of a 70+ hour work week.  I am almost eight months pregnant (tired, cranky, and super, super uncomfortable).  My boys (2 ½ years old and 4 years old) are reeling a bit from all the chaos in our life lately…and now are both sick…again.  I was short-tempered, cranky, snappy, and irritable yesterday.  I was not a patient mom.  I did not act with kindness well yesterday.  So.  As I noticed myself losing my patience, raising my voice, getting irritated with my little boys, I worked hard to stop and apologize to the boys in those moments: simply admitting what I did wrong, saying it was wrong, and asking for forgiveness.  I said so many silent prayers yesterday for Jesus to help me make it through.  Then in the middle of the night last night, I lay awake thinking through the day.  Thinking through my own soul chaos in the day.  Thinking through all that is going on for my boys right now.  Listening to the Holy Spirit point out where I am failing.  Admitting to it.  Asking for His help.  And then this morning, first thing, sitting with my boys (and my husband) explaining that it was wrong for me to be so cranky the past few days and apologizing and asking for forgiveness.  In this conversation, I also expressed how hard it is for me to be this pregnant right now and that I need their help as I work on not being cranky.  I talked with the boys about being a team together while I don’t feel good.  We talked about me working on not being cranky (and even them working on obeying).  It wasn’t even a half hour before I could have become cranky (with both boys not feeling well, the whining and demands and edginess surfaced almost immediately in our day)…but having repented, I was free to walk forward in peace…depending on the Spirit to help me be different than cranky.  My repentance didn’t remove the opportunity to struggle, it simply freed me from being stuck in the struggle.


That’s what living a repentance reality looks like in my everyday life. I’d love to hear stories of how you have learned to live this way! If you’ve walked this out in your family, what does it look like for you to live a repentance reality with your kids? 


To Every Mom Everywhere: You ARE Going to Fail

A few words of hope in light of your failures in motherhood.

Our greatest sign of success (of doing well) in motherhood is not “success” itself or even having “great” children.  Our greatest sign of success is how we recover from our failures in motherhood.

We typically make one of three choices when we fail at some part of being a mom.  But before I even go there, we have to start at the beginning. 

First, before you’ll even be able to hear the rest of my heart…or even receive any hope on this topic, you must accept that you are going to fail sometimes as a mom.  You are going to make mistakes.  You are going to let your kids down.  You are going to get it wrong.  You are going to downright fail at times. 

If you think I’m wrong about that, then you’re definitely missing something or just haven’t been a mom yet.  In all of history, there has never been a perfect mother.  Not one.  Not you.  Not your mother-in-law.  Not even your own mom. 

The sooner you are able to accept that you will mess this mom-thing up in one way or another, the sooner you will be able to start receiving hope and healing in your experience of motherhood.  You will not get it right every time.  Until you accept that foundational truth, you will constantly be holding on, trying to hold everything together, wrought with stress over the very reality of motherhood.

Next, as you accept the reality of your own error in motherhood, you will feel awful after you start to see those failures.  Pit-in-your-stomach awful.  You will cry.  You will ache over the places you’ve already messed up. You will feel heartbreak over the ways you have let your children down or hurt them.  These feelings are almost paralyzing at times.  But they are not meant to be the end.  These feelings are actually helpful and pave the way for hope and healing.*

Once you’ve seen some of your failures, you typically make one of three choices in response to your failures in motherhood (or really in any other area of your life!).  Only one of these responses is actually helpful and healing, the others are simply painful and even counter-productive if not downright destructive.  What follows is a summary of the three most common responses to failure, with one of them offering hope:

Justify – The most common way we respond to our own failures is to justify why we did what we did.  To make it look right even if it was wrong.  We try to convince ourselves, others, and even God why what we did wasn’t wrong…or at least not that wrong.  While totally anti-hope and anti-healing, we usually think this approach will make us feel better.  At least we won’t feel like we did anything wrong.  But there can never be hope or healing in this response because our denial of failure means that there is “nothing” to heal.  In the parent/child relationship, this can be the most destructive approach to our failures toward our children.  It does not allow for any healing or hope of change in us or for our children.

Wallow – The next most common response to our failures is to simply feel the weight of what we’ve done wrong and allow ourselves to wallow in that sadness and guilt.  Never actually seeking healing, we think somehow that by staying in a miserable, depressed reality over our wrongness will at least offer some penance for the failure.  But there is no healing here either, only guilt.  Shame and guilt.  Regret.  Not hope.  Not healing.  In the parent/child relationship, this just keeps you (and your child) circling the same pain over and over and over again, never healing, never being free, just held in the grip of regret.

Repent – The final response, the only one that is truly helpful and healing, is repentance.  In repentance, you actually can do something about your failure.  You can admit you messed up and you can ask Jesus to heal.*  You actually step into a reality greater than the failure…a reality of Divine grace.  The Bible says that Godly sorrow leads to repentance.**  So, yes, you will feel sad over your failure, but you get to go further than simply wallowing you’re your sadness.  You actually get to repent to God (and your child), asking Jesus for healing and transformation, and trusting the Spirit to give you the power to change so that you do not stay stuck in that failure.  This is the only response to failure that brings about hope and healing.  It is the only response that not only allows you to admit the wrong but also that allows you to “do” something with you did wrong, transferring your mistakes from a physical and emotional reality to a spiritual reality where Jesus can actually triumph over and heal your failures, changing you and setting you free from those failures.

In my next post, I will share more on repentance, adding in some practical “how to’s” for how that might look in motherhood.  In the meantime, may I encourage you to embrace the third option of repentance as you encounter your own failures in motherhood. 

* 1 John 1:8-10
** 2 Corinthians 7:10


After a Miscarriage: Responding to Your Own or Another's Miscarriage

What follows is a simple post both for the woman processing her own miscarriage and also for those close to someone going through a miscarriage.  These are my heartfelt thoughts (and hopefully helpful words) on responding to miscarriage, whether it is your own or someone else’s.

For many, miscarriage is a moment of deep feeling and loss often to be tucked away just weeks later, almost as though it never happened. 

I will never forget the moment.  My doctor friend scrolling over my belly, my husband holding one of our sons to see the screen…the other son standing nearby.  Waiting.  Searching.  No flickering heartbeat.  Me holding my breath.  My husband took the boys out of the room.  My doctor friend looked more and talked and processed with me. 

Miscarriage: the formal term for losing a little life, the medical word for the loss of a baby that will never exist outside its mama. 

Miscarriage: the aching loss so many women experience, often secretly and quietly, concealing their grief as though nothing happened.

Traditionally, miscarriage has been something only whispered about between close girlfriends.  Cried about alone.  At times, husbands holding their wives through the pain.  Other times, husbands feeling the loss yet not having any cultural context for processing the loss of a person they never actually touched. 

Yet, now, a wave is starting.  Brave women opening up about the grief of miscarriage and the importance of recognizing the life that was momentary on this earth but very real.

It’s been almost exactly a year since we lost our little baby.  Recently an older woman asked how I would keep this little baby’s story alive in my family.  I shared of things we had done to recognize the brief little blip this tiny baby was in our lives.  But there is more.  So many of you validated her little life in ways that forever touched my heart.  So for the world out there, I want to offer a few words of encouragement in regards to responding to miscarriage.  Words that encompass my own process of grief, words that share what others did to love me through that season.

When It’s Your Miscarriage

Say what you need.  During the days from the ultrasound to the actual moments of miscarrying, we had some extenuating family circumstances going on.  I didn’t know what to do in those circumstances nor how to communicate my needs well.  Going through a miscarriage is a moment in your life where you must speak up and say what you need.  Do not feel guilt about saying what you need. 

Choose comfort.  It’s a physically and emotionally draining process to go through a miscarriage.  When I did finally speak up and say what I needed, my husband helped create some quiet, alone space for us for a few days complete with wine (and pain pills on hand just in case the process became too intense).  The night I actually miscarried our baby, I had a little wine and watched a chick flick with my husband…the combination of which is my most “comfortable” reality.  We actually kept our boys home with us during those days, but my husband shouldered their care so that I could rest.  As best as I could, I rested my body, mind, and soul through the process.

Grieve.  You lost a little life you were anticipating.  A soul.  A person you now don’t get to meet.  Allow yourself to grieve.  Cry.  Journal.  Yell.  Curl up in a ball on the bathroom floor if you want to and sob until you’re done.  And the sob some more.   

Recognize that Little Life.  In whatever way fits you, find a way to validate and recognize that life you lost.  It could look so many different ways.  I blogged about my loss.  My husband and I lay in bed one night naming our little baby.  I shared the name and the story of the name with those closest to me.  I even painted as a way to remember.  These were my ways of recognizing and validating our baby’s life.  Find your own way, a way that suits you, to recognize and validate your baby’s life. 

Read This.  The following link is one of the most powerful pieces I read while processing my miscarriage and the subsequent questions of where my little baby’s soul was.  Click here to read John Piper’s “Funeral Meditations,” which he spoke in response to the loss of a baby who lived for only ten minutes on earth.  Piper’s words were some of the most helpful words in my processing.   

When It’s Someone Else’s Miscarriage

Use Sensitivity.  A woman going through a miscarriage is often emotionally fragile.  Even if she seems strong, stable, and at ease, there is so much more going on inside that she doesn’t want to tell you.  Be gentle with her heart.  It is surprising how even the smallest insensitive word can crush a woman grieving the loss of her unborn baby.

Ask first.  She will probably welcome help and care; however, just ask first.  What you want to do may or may not actually help her and/or touch her heart. 

Offer Practical Help.  Offer to take her kids for a few hours for a playdate.  Offer to bring dinner over.  You know her life and what she might need help with.  If you can help her out in some way, offer that help. 

Get Her Favorite.  One night in the midst of that emotional week, one of my closest friends texted me to see if I would like a pint of ice cream.  When I responded, “yes,” she drove over minutes later with my favorite ice cream.  I cannot even tell you how much this meant to me.  Whatever your friend’s favorite treat is, take it over and drop it off.  Grief is a time to be comforted.  So whatever comforts her, take it to her. 

Listen.  I needed to process.  With my husband.  With my mom.  With my girlfriends.  It happened sporadically and unexpectedly.  I couldn’t always anticipate when I’d need to talk.  I wrote emails with a plethora of questions to a couple of my friends who I knew had experienced their own miscarriages.  I texted one of my closest friends over and over again through those days and she just “listened” to my text messages, and in response, she expressed gentle compassion and understanding.  I cried so many times, just needing my husband to hold me.  I needed to talk about our baby.  I called my mom one morning an irrational crying mess, stressed about other complicating factors in our life at that time, and she just listened.  And then she spoke truth to me.  She settled my chaotic heart and gently (but strongly) spoke truth about those complicating circumstances, offering freedom, confidence, and perspective.  I will never forget that conversation.   When your grieving friend (or wife or daughter or sister) is ready to talk, listen. 

Validate the Life.  Because I walked through my miscarriage fairly publicly through my blog, I had the comforting reality of many, many people responding with love, tenderness and validation of the life I was losing.  When I wrote my mom and sisters, sharing with them the baby’s name, they wrote back with such tender and feeling responses.  Their words validated my little baby’s brief life.  One friend had already purchased a gift for this baby as soon as she found out I was pregnant, she texted one day and asked if it would be good for my heart or more painful to have the gift.  I asked her to please send it.  Another good friend showed up at my house weeks later with a small gift…a simple necklace with the baby’s first initial imprinted on a significantly meaningful charm.  I wore that necklace every day for months.  To whatever extent your friend opens her heart and experience to you, reciprocally validate the life she lost. 

Support Her Husband.  In those first few days of losing our baby, I was such an emotional wreck that I knew I was unable to truly help my husband process.  We were trying to connect over the loss, but it was so hard because there were so many other factors complicating our life at that time.  He called up one of his buddies who went out with him in the midst of it all.  That friend listened to Val, asked Val questions, checked on Val’s heart, and offered support.  This gave Val the strength he needed to come back and continue to hold me as I cried and grieved during those really hard days. 

Pray for Her.  She is grieving.  Pray for Jesus to be so near to her.  I could feel that people were praying for me, for Val, for our family.  Just weeks after the miscarriage, we were off leading a retreat.  And at the retreat, Val and I shared with the couple leading worship (strangers to us before the event) that we were in the middle of processing and grieving, and they stopped in one powerfully spiritual moment and prayed over us.  For those few minutes, it was as though heaven and earth touched as this couple prayed over our grieving hearts. 

Talking with Kids about Miscarriage

Elijah, our then 3 ½ year old, knew that there was a new baby inside Mama’s belly.  I knew I needed to explain the loss to him.  Yet, at 3 ½, he was only just beginning to understand death.   So, in plain but gentle words, I explained that our little baby had died.  This was followed by questions about what happened, where the baby was, and if other babies in other women’s bellies were also going to die (his best buddy’s mom was also pregnant at the time).  So, we talked through every single question.  And then whenever he would bring it up again, I would answer whatever he wanted to know, making it a safe conversation.  Months later when I got pregnant again, Elijah’s questions about babies and death and “our other baby” surfaced again.  So, we talked through it all once again. 

A much as you are able, allow your child or children talk with you openly about the baby that was lost.  Answer their questions with age-appropriate truth.  One web resource I read encouraged miscarrying mamas to use real words even with very young children…words like “die” instead of “lost,” as even those subtle differences can create fear in preschoolers trying to process miscarriage (will Mama “lose” me too?).  Recognize that for your kids this is the loss of a hoped for sibling.  Allow this loss to be part of their story, too.  Your family lost someone.  Find ways that fit your family to mark and remember the life that never actually got to join in.  For us, it’s a simple page in one of our many scrapbooks.  We pass over that page once in a while when we look at that scrapbook and it keeps that one life a part of our story. 

Miscarriage is a part of so many of our stories.  A part of our stories to process, grieve, and remember…interwoven in the fabric of our very lives.