Warrior Mama

Warrior Mama

I tearfully looked around my office and said one last goodbye. Goodbye to the television endlessly streaming cable news headlines I may or may not need to respond to. Goodbye to the phone constantly ringing off the hook with reporters needing a comment. Goodbye to the clunky cabinet full of news clippings, press releases, editorials and letters to the editor — many of which I’d spent way too much time obsessing over. And goodbye to wonderful co-workers. Men and women I’d bonded with in worthwhile battles.

The seven years I spent at a ministry helping communicate biblical truth about challenging, controversial issues were ones steeped in the trenches. Every interview, every debate with a talking head, every editorial and every press conference seemed to carry with it the weight of an intense spiritual battle for hearts and minds.

Now, I was going home to a beautiful, doe-eyed girl intent upon waging her own war against my sleep patterns.

On my last day in the office, a dear colleague wisely told me, “God is just moving you to another division in His army.” She was right.

The battlefield I was headed towards was every bit as real as the one I had just left.

I love C.S. Lewis’ simple, yet profound depiction of spiritual warfare. “There is no neutral ground in the universe. Every square inch, every split second is claimed by God and counterclaimed by Satan.”

So too is every square inch of motherhood.

These days, the grocery store is often my battleground. I feel it keenly almost every time I run in to pick up some diapers. With all five of my children. The looks and comments I receive are often insensitive and discouraging. The root lie, however, lurking beneath is an insidious, destructive arrow.

“Are all of these children yours?”

“I’m glad I’m not you.”

“Your poor son. He’s the only boy in this huge group of girls.”

The bewildered, crushed look on my children’s faces is a loud cry to put on my warrior paint. After one such comment, my oldest daughter looked up at me and, crestfallen, asked, “Mommy, what is wrong with us? Why do people say those things?”

“Not everyone knows Jesus, sweetheart,” I responded. “And not everyone believes Him when He said, ‘Children are a blessing.’ But you are. So is every member of our family. God has beautifully put us together and we are grateful.”

War.

Warrior MamaAs mothers, we battle the ever present lies of our adversary — often in a society that belittles the value of our children and tells us our calling is “less than” and that the pleasure and pursuit of self-fulfillment is “more than.”

It’s a lie I battle not just “in the culture,” but in the culture war that rages within myself. Especially after a sleepless night with a little one that no amount of coffee can remedy.

One such morning, I got a phone call from a dear friend and former colleague.

We chatted about all the goings on in her life. Her speaking engagements. Her book proposal. The interviews she was doing with famous authors and notable leaders. The business trips and vacations she’d been taking.

I looked over at my daughter sitting in a tub of water. A tub of water with poop in it. Having endured a night of viral affliction, both she and the water were extra gross. The washing machine was whirring away at ninety miles an hour spinning off nocturnal crap. Frankly, I could have used a Hazmat suit at that very moment.

Jealousy set in. So did that familiar feeling of shame, discontentment and irrelevance.

“You used to be somebody. Now look at you.”

“Don’t you wish you were doing all the cool things she’s doing?”

“Nobody cares about you. You’re just another stay-at-home mom.”

Truth came gently. “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it” (Luke 9:24).

War. We are at war.

My fellow moms, the sunken bags under our bloodshot eyes and the stretch marks around our bellies are medals of distinguished service. The kitchen that may never be spotless and that minivan with petrified chicken nuggets in the car seat is part of the war effort. And on the days when battle fatigue threatens to overtake us, we drink in the truth and maybe, another cup of coffee.

Our mission of love and sacrifice calls out to a watching world, inviting them to find the God who is the essence of both. We are gaining strategic ground and changing the course of eternity. By the grace of God, we will advance — one Costco trip, one sippy cup refill, one tough conversation and one diaper change at a time.

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About

Julie Neils is passionate about living a real life in a fabricated world. Digging beneath the surface in her relationship with God and with others is the thing that gets her up out of bed. That and fussy little ones. And a big ol’ cup of coffee. As a media relations and branding consultant, she has spent more than fifteen years advising ministry leaders, policy makers and authors on relevant, out-of-the-box communications strategies. She and her husband, Brian, live in the Rocky Mountains where she homeschools their five kiddos.


  • Rebecca Armenta Verbeten

    Just the “shot in the arm” this warrior mama needed. My girls are now 9 and 11, so my sleepless nights are brought on by questions about internet usage and secular friends. “War. We are at war.” Thank you!

  • julieneils

    Rebecca, I love that. Thank you for your encouragement. Warring with you on these frontline battles together. God bless you!

  • Amanda

    So, so encouraging! Thank you for this excellent post! It makes me ready for my Monday – not to be a mundane day that can sometimes feel like “Groundhog Day” but as a day of battle that I’m ready to fight and lead my little troop into!
    Amanda

    P.S. I think we have a mutual friend in Amy Desai :)

    • julieneils

      You said it so well, Amanda! It does feel like “Groundhog Day” on so many days. Thank you for sharing this. May God give us the strength and courage to lead our troops into our respective battles today. Thank you so much for that encouraging truth. Oh – I just love Amy. She’s one of my closest friends! Thank you again. Armor on!

  • Nadine

    Thanks, Julie. I’m right there with you. Do you find that sleep deprivation, endless messes and feeling like a broken record sometimes cause you to lose focus on who our enemy truly is? I think that’s half the battle for me – remembering that, yes, I am constantly waging war, but my family is not the enemy!

    • julieneils

      I hear you on that, Nadine. I often find my “broken record” day causes me to focus on my children. Then when I focus on my children, I focus on my perception of my failures as a mother which leads me right into the culture war within–hearing the lies of the enemy about myself and my family too. Lord, let us set our faces like flint towards you even as we stand in a dirty kitchen washing dirty dishes. You have conquered so that we can conquer through you.

  • My older mom self frequently instructs, yea, verily, verily, ENCOURAGES, younger moms who come across this behavior to look Unsolicited Comment Spewer directly in the eyes and with firm and unapologetic voice reply, “What could possibly make you think it’s okay to speak to me and my children this way?” And then walk away. It’s okay to have a Strong Mom Voice in The Public Square of Thoughtlessness.

    • julieneils

      Julie, Thank you so much for sharing that. I have at times responded similarly and ask the Lord for wisdom in those situations. Often my flesh comes raging forth. Other times, God has led me to respond with a, “I’m so blessed to have each one of them and wouldn’t trade them for the world. I hope your folks feel the same about you.” Thank so much for your words. You are right. There is always time for strong words. :) Thanks for taking the time to share this. God bless you in all the work you are doing to help so many moms including me.

  • Karleigh Lynne Petersen

    I’m a young new wife, and a young new mom. I’ve been married for 2 1/2 years, and my beautiful baby is 10 months old. I needed this more then I think you can ever know. I’m a stay at home mom and full time college student. My husband has a full time job, and he’s starting up school in a few weeks. Sometimes I feel like I’m not doing enough for our family. Maybe I should give up school and get a job. Maybe I should devote all my spare time to couponing. Maybe, just maybe, I can make sure my son gets the life he deserves. I just got out of a powerful worship service, and God placed this on my news feed to confirm what He told me. I am enough. I was blessed with the opportunity to raise this precious little boy, and grow with a wonderful man. I am the on the Frontline for both my son and my husband. I’m a safe place for my husband to go after a long day of work, I’m a chef that puts good food in the fridge, I’m a teacher that provides lessons on life. I am so many things. I am enough. I am at war with the world that tells me that my life was a wrong decision. I am at war with everyone who ever said that we weren’t going to make it.
    Thank you. Thank you for posting this. Praise God for providing the armor, and now it’s time to charge.

  • Sarah

    I have children that un a few months will be 18 yrs and 15 yrs old, i also have turning 2 yrs and a new addition turning 3 months. I get so sick of hearing how I was” almost done” and why would i want more at my age, I’m hardly geriatric, 36. I just have to reply, “it was in my plan.” What most don’t realize is the 12 years of struggles and heartbreak it took for my to finally have more kids. My older two are often offended by this question, they were there through the heartache. I always try to remind them sometimes curiosity comes off as being nosey. What is hardest is when you are facing so many battles within your own homw , with your children’s issues and adults add fuel to the fire. When will we realize that we are on the same team. Allies of the war, let’s fight together.

    • missy

      My husband and i have been married 25 years and are children are 25,23,15,13 and 1. I am hoping to have another one but my pregnancies are really difficult. I get that all the time. You were just about done or it’s like you have multiple families. No we have one family. We had a miscarriage in between my 13 and 1 year old. I t makes me sad when people say that we are not one family because they are spaced apart, but this is how it happened for us.

      • Sarah

        Thankfully no one has called us separate families, i honestly don’t know what my reaction would be. I will be wishing, hoping and praying that you are blessed with a new bundle.

  • Eileen O

    I’m with you momma! Those nasty looks in Target at me in my scrubs, wearing my baby with 4 other children in tow. Frantically looking for a healthy lunch because I forgot mine at home. Finally settling on a Coke and a Lunchable… Only to drop bigger ones off at school and little ones to grandma’s because I’m a full time mom, but also have a full time job outside the house. For that, society tells me that I am a terrible mother. “Why did I have so many children if I cannot stay home with them?” War! We are at war!

  • Exactly what I needed to hear today.

  • Cassandra Carrascosa

    I feel that I have been walking this same path with a great deal of sorrow and numbness from marital wounds. The pain sweeps into the very daily routines of keeping the home and caring for the children. I have not neglected my children, but I have disengaged in the the battle. I need healing and restoration on both fronts, as I feel like I am being pulled underwater with bearly a breath left. It’s like I am watching myself from a distance…. I see my weakness as I watch myself struggle and fumble to get back up. But I feel stuck! I want to be engaged again in this battle. Thank you for addressing as it is. It is a battle, one for the very souls of our children. We have the duty of clothing, and feeding them, but more importantly we have the honor and responsibility of leading them towards a relationship with God.

  • Rachel Ramey

    My bigger battle is here at home. I’ve been blessed to have not gotten rude comments from random strangers (although I have been BLESSED by the words of a random stranger, who will never know just how VAST an impact her gentle words had on me, in the the midst of a very hard day). But I struggle with mySELF over these things. I’m not “wired” like most women. I’m not a nurturer — at all. I’m a “driven,” goal-oriented type. I value efficiency and the acquisition of new information. All of which is pretty much at odds with spending all of every day putting out the proverbial fires so we can survive ’til tomorrow to do it all over again. (“Groundhog Day” was an apt description!)

    I LOVE my children, but I don’t LIKE being a full-time mom. And I’m not good at it. And I wonder if I’m really doing them any favors.

    Every day.

    And people generally don’t understand, because they usually either love this lifestyle (most days) or gave up on it a long time ago. People for some reason can’t understand, “This is NOT ‘my thing,’ but God told me to do it so I’m doing it.”

    • Matthew Andersen

      Two nights ago I was up every hour with two of my children. Last night I spent from 10-2am in the ER, today with the other kid, I spent from 2:30-10pm in the ER. I just got home, dishwasher was not emptied, dishes in the sink, everyone asleep…including my husband, and I am sitting down to eat dinner, and my husband had sent me this link through facebook. Totally what I needed tonight. I’m so tired I could cry. Thank you for your words! ~Jess

    • Amy Kannel

      I really, really get that, Rachel. What you’ve said here resonates with me deeply–I think I do understand, even if most don’t. Thanks for your transparency.

  • Matthew Andersen

    Two nights ago I was up every hour with two of my children. Last night I spent from 10-2am in the ER, today with the other kid, I spent from 2:30-10pm in the ER. I just got home, dishwasher was not emptied, dishes in the sink, everyone asleep…including my husband, and I am sitting down to eat dinner (at 11pm), and my husband had sent me this link through facebook. Totally what I needed tonight. I’m so tired I could cry. Thank you for your words! ~Jess

  • Sewthankful

    Good article, Julie. My 5 (with another who went Home) are 22 and up now (and I, too, homeschooled!), but I’ve posted this on Facebook for friends with younger kids. We need to maintain this perspective…. because it’s the truth…because God does not see as man sees…. because we ARE at war. Thanks for sharing and encouraging. Blessings, sister! :)

  • Karen Harker

    I would love to hear from some other Senior moms, My husband and I raised 3 boys ages of date 35 , 30, 29, and then came our blessing from above, a baby boy named Jayden, he is 7 years old now, and we have had him since he was 10 days old. He is in 1st grade now. There are those days that I wonder” what we’re we thinking taking on this challenge so late in life. I’M 57 and my husband is 56. A lot of times I feel so out of place, when I go to his school, and the other kids ask my son , ” Is this your Grandma? , and my son not understanding why they would ask that , says” No that’s my Mom! I don’t really fit in with the young Moms, and all of the other Women my age have raised their kids, and are on to other things. We know in our hearts, that our youngest son, was brought to us by the Lord. As a matter of fact he told me about him in a dream, prior to my knowing that he was going to be born. ( but that’s another story), any way I could really use some encouragement from other senior moms, I’m having a hard time with not having enough energy, it’s really hard to keep up with him. I have more patients then I ever had with my other 3 boys. I’m just hoping and praying that God will allow Me to see him grow up, unless the Lord comes back for us before then. Thank you for letting me speak my heart.

  • Michelle Barringer

    Wow, thank you for this. I cried. It’s all so true. We are at war and our children’s souls are up for grabs! Thank you for the reminder that we are called to fight.

  • Stephanie Gonzales

    Same here. I get rude comments when I only have half of my kids with me. LOL!!!! Be strong, mothers and remember our treasure is where our hearts are.

  • sosomom

    I am so glad I live somewhere that people don’t say these things too often!

  • Mrs Phillips

    Thank you! As a Mom to four wee darlings I know I am blessed. BUT sometimes I remember I used to a medic in the United States Air Force, I used to dawn a uniform and save lives. Now…I raise them… Sometimes I forget that it is even more important than what I used to do… There are lots of soldiers (Im married to one) and they are all amazing! But my children only have 1 Mom and I am pretty amazing too.

  • Love, love, love! I share this same sentiment as a fellow mama to six blessings. Fight on, warrior mom! Your battle is eternal and divine =0)

  • Karen

    Julie,
    I LOVE this post; I can identify with every word! I truly need this encouragement– especially on the days when I’m in the trenches of motherhood, feeling like the whole world is against me. I have bookmarked this post and reread it often! I can’t tell you how much your words have meant to me. Thank you for posting this!
    Your fellow mom,
    Karen

  • Mj

    Wow! I’m a tad late in seeing this article as well as being a seasoned mom. My kids are almost 36 and almost 33. I even have grandchildren. I remember those days when my kids were young. I was a stay at home mom until my kids were in high school. I totally enjoyed every minute of it and I never felt like I was missing out. I always thought of it as a really important job because I was responsible for shaping the lives of two other human beings. But now, I am working in the corporate world. I would trade anything to be able to spend time with children instead of the adults I work with. Most people say that 2 year olds are terrible. They are not anywhere close to most of the irritating adults I work with. One commenter mentioned below that she does not like being a stay at home mom. I know plenty of people who do not enjoy it. I so wish I could leave the corporate world and be of help to these people who would rather be working out side the home. Thank you for a great article!

  • Catherine Marie Chesser

    Having just dealt with my fourth poopy or soaking wet set of bedding in 24 hours, I needed this post. Thanks.

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Warrior Mama

by Julie Neils time to read: 3 min
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