A Controlling Wife and Mother

Spending many days each year on the road means that we are often packing up from a hotel room early in the morning, heading for the van. I was struggling with trying to get five children up, through their personal Bible time, in and out of the bathroom, down to the breakfast room, packed up, and out the door those mornings. Often I could hear a commander-style tone in my voice as I told each person what he or she needed to accomplish. This process was making miserable mornings for me, and I don’t think my children liked it either.

My justification was that Steve wanted to be driving at a certain time so I should be facilitating that process. That was true, but my methods were not the godly ones that I desired them to be. Steve was right there in the room with us. As the father, he was capable of directing the children if he felt they weren’t moving at the speed they needed to go, or if they weren’t doing what he thought they should be doing.

After several unhappy mornings and then crying out to the Lord through prayer during the van drive in the day, the Lord gave me the solution. I wasn’t the one in control. I needed to be quiet and let Steve do the job the Lord Jesus had given to him—without my attempts to take over. I wouldn’t have thought that was what I was doing, but it was. What Jesus showed me I was to do was to first get myself ready to go. Then I could begin to help any child who was still getting packed up or eating breakfast. No more orders, no more tones in my voice, and no more controlling. I can testify that when I got into the van after following the plan the Lord Jesus had given me, my heart felt joyful rather than condemned.

One of my greatest struggles comes from trying to control—my husband, my children, my circumstances. You name it; I want to make it go the way I think it should go, and grab the responsibility to try to ensure the outcome. I have a great distance to go in learning spiritual lessons about not being a controller, but I want to share what I have gleaned and applied so far.

The first step in my journey to not be a controller has been to recognize that my controlling tendencies and actions are unpleasing to Jesus, and therefore they are sin in my life. Even this step has been difficult for me, because I find I always have a justification for my controlling behavior, and as long as I justify it, I am content continuing as I have been.

Why would controlling be sin? For me there have been three main reasons. First, when I am controlling, I am not trusting the Lord but rather attempting to manage the situation to accomplish the outcome I have deemed to be best. Philippians 4:6–7 says, “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” These verses do not indicate that I am to then solve the problem. Rather I am to take these issues to the Lord Jesus in prayer and then allow His peace to keep my heart and mind. When I am a controlling wife or mom, my tendency is to action rather than to prayer. Even though I pray, I do not experience His peace because I am focused on doing what I think I should do rather than waiting on Jesus to direct my steps.

The second reason I am sinning when I am controlling is that regularly I am usurping my husband’s authority. If Steve is around, then it is his responsibility to deal with situations that come up, not mine. I am my husband’s helpmeet, not his mother. Therefore, my role is better served by being in the background and serving with a meek and quiet spirit rather than trying to make happen what I think should happen. Early mornings in the hotel room are a great example of that. I see myself as a controller concerning my husband when I continually remind Steve of things he needs to do or when I point out areas in the children’s lives that I don’t believe he is noticing.

Here again, I can apply Philippians 4:6–7, pray about any concerns I have, and trust the Lord to bring them to Steve’s attention if He chooses to do so. I have noticed that because of my controlling tendencies, I focus on the negative and therefore criticism comes easily from my mouth. When I am being quiet and letting Steve have the role the Lord has given to him, then I avoid the critical and harsh words I so dislike in myself. It is my desire to be my children’s encourager, not discourager. Growing away from controlling is a part of that process for me.

The third reason my controlling is sin is because that controlling is not done with a meek and quiet spirit. 1 Peter 3:4 instructs me on the importance of a meek and quiet spirit: “. . . the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.” Usually when I am in a controlling mood there is a tone in my voice that indicates the emotion I am feeling. That tone is evident to my family, recognized even more quickly by them than it is by me. The controlling can disintegrate into an argument or confrontation with the person I am interacting with, which seldom has the characteristics of love and harmony that I want for my life or my family’s lives.

My commitment has been to confess my controlling each time the Lord or someone else points it out and to repent of it. Since controlling is wrapped up in pride, confession and repentance are critical to overcoming it. James 4:6 says, “But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.” I am continually praying for God’s grace and help in leaving my controlling heart behind to be replaced by a humble heart. The more I control, the more the help of the Lord Jesus, which I desperately need, is unavailable to me because of my pride.

As I grow in this area, I have recognized the importance of choosing to be quiet and serving my family rather than being their commander, especially when Steve is at home. As a mom, I still have responsibility for the children and authority over them when Steve is not around, but that can be accomplished without being a controller. For me, controlling versus not controlling usually comes down to my attitude. Controlling is evidenced when I am being selfish. Let’s say a child doesn’t do his chore. When I feel inconvenienced by this, I will respond with the controlling attitude—a critical spirit with negative tones in my voice. When I see the child’s failure as an opportunity to help him learn and grow, then my response is not controlling but is patient, encouraging, and gentle. That is the attitude I want to have in all my mothering tasks.

May I encourage us as wives and mothers to evaluate whether we have controlling tendencies. If so, is that what pleases the Lord Jesus? If not, are we willing to use the situations in which we feel a need to control as opportunities to trust the Lord and develop a meek and quiet spirit? My prayer is that we would choose to serve our families with gentle spirits, patient hearts, and quiet voices rather than with controlling attitudes, behaviors, or voices.

Posted in: Mom's Corner

Mama Gets a Hard Hat

There is a store in Kansas City that I greatly enjoy walking around in while looking at everything they sell. I don’t go there unless I have a “need” because it is forty-five minutes from home. In addition, when I’m in that store I think I like looking around too much. Frankly, I know I’m not alone, in that most men reading this Corner would also want to spend time in my favorite tool store.

It is amazing how men love tools. There is good reason for this too because the right tool can save enormous amounts of time and effort on a project plus improving the quality of the outcome. Perhaps every man’s appetite for tools begins when, as a child, he falls in love with his first hammer. A little boy sees strong Daddy pounding away with a hammer, and of course, he wants to be just like his Daddy.

If men are quick to appreciate and value their tools, are they as quick to recognize their wives’ need of domestic tools? Homeschooling moms have a tremendous amount of work to do in a given day, and having the right tools may mean the difference between success or failure in keeping up. “Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered” (1 Peter 3:7). Am I honoring my wife as the weaker vessel and seeing that she has the tools to do the jobs that she needs to do?

There will be different seasons for a family when one tool is far more important than another tool. A family with four children under the age of six years old may have an indispensable need for a quality dishwasher compared to a family with two children ages ten and twelve. Not that a family with older children can’t use a dishwasher, but I expect it would be more critical for that young mommy trying to maintain a home with very young ones and no help. We visited a family last week with older daughters in the home. My children were amazed when three dish dryers had a difficult time keeping up with one daughter who was a lightning-fast dish washer. Cleanup was completed in record time, and the girls had wonderful fellowship in the process. An automatic dishwasher would be far less important to that family as compared to other kitchen appliances such as are used for canning and making bread. Each family is different and will have various needs.

Teri received her first clothes washer and dryer as a college graduation present from her parents. That set lasted for almost twenty years, and as our family has grown those appliances have become even more important since they process several loads of clothes every day. After that original set, the next washer and dryer, although purchased new, gave us nothing but headaches. Just a couple of years later, I was faced with a difficult decision. Teri’s need for reliable clothes washing won out over my desire not to get rid of a significant financial investment that should have lasted many years longer. We vote by our decisions. If I say I value all my wife does and want to help her in keeping up, I must demonstrate that by spending money for tools to help her.

Our family has been making fresh whole-wheat bread for over sixteen years. We knew it could be a difficult transition from soft, store-bought white bread to whole wheat bread because of the finicky palettes of our children. Therefore, I wanted to make it as easy as possible by having whole-wheat bread that was not heavy. That meant a mill that would grind the wheat berries very fine and a mixer that was capable of kneading the bread well. Teri was busy enough with homeschooling and one new little one, and I didn’t want to add that to her plate so I researched the mill and mixer to purchase plus taking on the bread baking responsibility until Sarah was old enough to make bread. I know some valiant souls who hand grind the flour and knead the bread, but I didn’t want to invest the time to do that so we purchased the mill and the mixer. I have not regretted for a minute what we spent on those tools. I’m pleased to report that my children’s finicky palettes have also learned to appreciate the taste of Sarah’s wonderful bread.

As our family grew, it became necessary to cook in increasing quantities. One does not have to spend a fortune on cookware to enable Mama to make larger batches to meet the current demand plus more that can be frozen and reheated later. We cook the filling for burritos every three or four months and freeze it so it is available for our Sunday noon meal. (This is the link to our family recipe.) Over time we have purchased increasingly bigger pots in which to make our burrito filling.

Dirt-cheap, eclectic kitchen knives were what we got by using for the first thirty years of our marriage. Only recently when we began eating lots of vegetables did I give Teri a nicer set of knives for Mother’s Day. They have been an appreciated improvement but nothing we absolutely required like some of the other tools I feel Teri has needed. Again, this will vary from family to family.

Our family has always struggled with vacuum cleaners. It isn’t that we are hard on them, but we do use them frequently. I have had to adjust my expectations to the fact that a vacuum just never seems to last very long and that there is no one perfect vacuum that does bare floors and carpet well. The other problem we encountered almost yearly is what do you do when the vacuum is in the shop being repaired? We finally settled on having two vacuums, a canister for bare floors and an upright for carpet.

Posted in: Dad's Corner