Missionary Mom: guest post by Bethany Spears

Today, I have a little something different. I have been wanting to post this for a while now, but the world has been so crazy, and I didn’t want it to get lost in the muddle of all that is going on in 2020. However, I decided that even with and especially with everything going on, we could all use these reminders. So today, I have a guest post by a friend, and someone I have long admired. Please take to heart the sweet lessons and practical wisdom from this missionary mom, Bethany Spears. Thank you, Bethany, for sharing your heart with us!

Tell us a little about yourself.

Hello, my name is Bethany Spears. I grew up in a Christian home in North Carolina. At a young
age, I gave my life to Christ and desired to live for Him in obedience and faith. I went to college
and graduate school in Florida where I met my handsome man. After school, I moved to
Pennsylvania, got married and worked as a teacher for five years while pursuing a seminary
degree alongside my husband. We were appointed as missionaries in 2014 and moved to the
Philippines in 2016. God blessed us with a beautiful daughter just seven months after moving
overseas. In 2019 we moved to our current city, Tacloban, Leyte, where my husband and I are
working alongside national pastors and church leaders to start a school for theological training.
My favorite things in life are marriage, motherhood, hospitality, homemaking, food, education,
studying God’s Word, exercise, and German Shepherds.

How is your motherhood journey different than you planned?

“Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” Psalm
34:8
“But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to
the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me.” Psalm 13:5-6

Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect in motherhood. During the first half of my twenties, I
didn’t even want to be a mother. In my immaturity, I didn’t value motherhood and the beauty
of raising a sweet soul for Christ’s glory. But God changed my heart and perspective like only He
can do. He has shown me how important motherhood is and the eternal value it holds. Now I
can’t imagine life without the precious privilege of motherhood. So, I think I would say that my
motherhood journey has been different than I thought because I adore my title as mother.
Motherhood has given me unexpected joy, a joy that can only come from God working in a
stubborn heart.

My journey has not been easy. Learning to be a mother away from my comfort zone and home
country has been quite a lesson in allowing God to use me in my weakness. Most of my journey
has been alone without a community of support from our family, church family, and friends.
But for that, I can truly say thank you, Lord. He has drawn near in my loneliness and helped me
to thrive as a mother. He has given me an unexplainable joy as I seek to serve Him and my
family in a foreign country. Truly, He has given me joy, peace, and hope.

“May the God of hope fill you with joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy
Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans 15:13

If you had to pick one word or theme that describes your motherhood journey so far what would it be and why?

“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all you might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and you rise.” Deuteronomy 6:5-7.

Motherhood is eternal work, ministry work that God sees and values. He should be glorified in how we love and serve our children each and every day. The way by which we love God will have a major impact in the way we mother our children. These verses in Deuteronomy have been heavy on my mind and heart for months now. Motherhood is an eternity-impacting job. My daughter is already at three years old forming beliefs in her little mind about God. What she is learning and believing in her little heart is much in part because she is watching me and her daddy daily. I tell her often and pray over her that my greatest desire for her is that she love the Lord with her whole heart, mind, and soul. And right now, I am her biggest teacher. God may have called my family across the world to share Him with others, but she is my greatest disciple. I am so underserving of this job – to reflect Christ’s love to her in my daily actions and words and to share with her the beauty of a relationship with God the Father through Christ Jesus. As you each know, it is a job that requires much: humility, selflessness, forgiveness, patience, love, and cuddles. Thank you, Lord, for entrusting me with the ministry of motherhood and giving me the daily grace needed. Knowing that what I do each day matters for eternity gives me the encouragement to remain steadfast through my weakness and with God’s strength to love my family. Having the right eternal perspective changes the way we mother each day.

“I will sing of the steadfast love of the LORD, forever; with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations.” Psalms 89:1

What piece of advice would give other mothers/women wanting to become mothers based on your experience?

“I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.” Psalm 16:8

Make God’s Word a priority in your life. This is the only way you will be able to thrive in motherhood. The only way you will love your children and family well and serve them for God’s glory is by prioritizing the time you spend with the Lord. Understandably, some days you won’t be able to sit down and study God’s Word for much more than a few minutes. Yet you can still prioritize your relationship with him. Maybe prioritizing him means placing Scripture passages in places where you can meditate on them throughout your day. I like to keep 3×5 cards with verses above my kitchen sink. Sometimes it means I need to skip Netflix during naptime and listen to a God-centered podcast while I fold laundry. Sometimes washing dishes is an excellent time to focus on praying. Maybe it even means not doing housework during naptime and instead sitting down to study the Word. Maybe you don’t have any quiet time during your day. Read a short passage out loud to your littles while they play.

Fill your home with God-centered music. Meditating on Scripture throughout your busy day will change the course of your day. Your attitude will change. God will give you great joy and peace as you focus on him and serve your family for his honor and glory. Folding laundry, changing diapers, cooking yet another dinner, and washing dishes again and again done in the spirit of honoring God can change your life and the lives around you. Let the Spirit change you through the power of his Word.

“Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16

One practice that has changed my life as I study God’s Word is God-centered reading. As you read try to understand what God was saying to the original audience and how it applied to their life rather than immediately applying the passage to yourself. Ask yourself, “How does the passage relate to Christ?” Then identify the universal truth within the passage. Then apply all of that amazing truth to your own life. Until we understand how Christ loved us when we were yet sinners, we are incapable of loving our own families with a Christ-like sacrificial love.

“Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Ephesians 5:1-2

Who told you that being a mother is not enough?

I see it all the time. Women talking about the struggle of motherhood. How motherhood has taken things from them they can never get back. How creating life within them has wrecked their bodies. How raising babies has stolen their social lives. How giving themselves to their children every day has left them no room and no time to discover themselves.

Oh, ladies, I understand that it is hard. It is a struggle, and we can talk about that, and we can laugh and make jokes because it is hard and it is good to laugh. I understand that motherhood is a phase in our lives unlike any other, and it requires much sacrifice. I’m living in it too. And, ya, sometimes, I escape to target, or the nail salon, or even just the bathroom for a few minutes to be alone.

But I just find myself wondering who told you that this beautiful season is only about survival? Who told you that this was not going to require every ounce that you have to give? Who told you that in the middle of giving yourself over to your family and your children you were also required to find yourself in something else?

Coming from someone who got married at 29 and had a baby at 30, I had time to find myself. You know what I found? Loneliness. I found myself praying for a husband and a family. I found myself holding on to the hope that someday I would have children of my own, and just have the chance to give my all completely over to them.

And do you know where I find myself these days? I find myself at home in my pajamas on the floor playing with my children. That is home to my soul. I find myself in their embrace. I find myself in the scent of their skin at the nape of their neck when they give me a hug. I find myself in every squishy kiss, and smile, and giggle, and the look in their eyes that let me know that they have found comfort, and love, and security in me. I find myself in peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and mac and cheese, and bottles late at night. I find myself in coloring and creating and learning from and with my children. I find myself in holding their little bodies close to mine and feeling their chest move up and down when they breathe. I find myself in knowing that they hold my blood in their veins and the map of my bones in their tiny bodies. I find myself overwhelmingly thankful. I find myself in awe at the beauty of their faces and the wonder of their imaginations, and the purity of their hearts. I find myself in these new souls that I can not live without. I find myself in them. I find my true self in being their mother.

I can escape. I can discover every hobby, and go on every girls weekend, and try every new class, but that is never where I find myself. I am a mother. God, I’m so grateful. I am a mother. There is no denying that is who I am now. I find more joy in it than I ever, ever have in anything other than God. And don’t you dare believe the lie that it is not enough, because it is more than my heart can handle to be blessed to find myself here.

Don’t Fall for the Scam. Don’t Do it for Instagram.

It is not even Thanksgiving yet, and I am already seeing pictures on Instagram of perfectly decorated houses, themed christmas trees, and elegant decor. All of which have me feeling a certain way. Every stupid Christmas throw pillow and perfectly curated bottle brush tree collection mantlescape makes me feel like putting on my shoes and going to Target to try to keep up with everyone else. It makes me feel that what I have is not good enough, not hip enough, not sparkly enough, not farmhousey enough, just not enough. And this isn’t just a Holiday feeling. It’s a feeling that instagram gives me a lot of the time. Sometimes I just wanna delete it all together, but of course I don’t.

This year though, I keep asking myself “WHY?” Why do I feel like I need more than I have? Why do I feel like I need to spend more money than I need to spend? And who am I doing it for? Who am I trying to impress? Strangers on the internet? Who says we need to keep up with the bloggers or the influencers? This is just another scam people!

It is an outright SCAM to think that your Holiday decor should be about anyone other than your family. It is a SCAM for them to make us feel like we have to go into debt making our houses look like a magazine. It is a SCAM to make us think that the people who really matter aren’t the people that live within our walls- the precious people that we see, and kiss, and hug, and love on everyday.

Ya’ll. Come on. We know better than this. We do.

How much money do you need to spend to post a picture? Because your kids aren’t gonna care if you use those same Christmas decorations from last year, and they matter. Your husband surely isn’t gonna care what your tree theme is, and he matters. I never liked themed trees anyway. You know what I love? Looking at my tree, the one with the same ornaments from last year, and the year before- the ones we have collected in our 4 little Christmases together. I love cuddling on the couch next to the glow of that tree because it is warm, and it’s OURS, and it’s freaking magical.

The same goes for what’s under the tree. Giving isn’t about showing anyone up. It is only about loving the ones you love.

I am certainly not saying that it is wrong to wanna go out and pick up some new Christmas decorations, or nice presents under the tree for your family. All I’m saying is check your heart, and ask yourself why? I know I am….every single time I see something and think “I need that” or “my house needs to look like theirs.” Make sure you are not doing anything that you don’t wanna do this Holiday. Don’t let strangers on the internet make this season into something that it was never meant to be! Don’t be afraid to use those funny old reindeer figurines, or that heirloom tree topper, or the tablecloth from your grandma, or the ornament from when you first got married just because it’s not “in style” or isn’t “on theme.” Don’t let comparison steal your season. Don’t let them tell you how to do Christmas, and, please, please, please don’t do any of it for Instagram.

And don’t worry….. after Christmas, it will all be 90% off at Target anyway.

War and Peace and Motherhood

Anxiety and worry have to be one of my biggest struggles as a mother, and honestly one of the things that shocked me the most about motherhood. Along with the enormous amount of new love I was experiencing, I also was so unbelievably scared that something would happen that would hurt my baby or that this love would be taken from me somehow. Don’t get me wrong, I do not think I was or am a special case. I think that this worry is something that comes with the territory of being a new mother. Love is never ever without risk so naturally one of the greatest loves of all comes with the greatest risk of heartache. The ironic thing is the worst thing of all would not be something bad happening to you. It would be something bad happening to your child.

Let’s face it. The world is a broken place. There are terrible people who do terrible things every day. There are literally a million reasons to be scared, anxiety ridden, and overprotective of our children. It’s so sad that we have to worry about the things we do, but that’s the world we live in. And as much as we want to, we can’t be shut ins. We have to leave our homes, we have to interact with other people, we have to expose our children somewhat to the dangers of the world. We can and should protect them from a lot, but we just can not protect them from everything.

I understand that many people have medical conditions starting with or stemming from anxiety, and in no way am I against talking to a healthcare professional and/or a biblical counselor to help in these instances. PPD, depression, and anxiety are real, and there is no shame in seeking help if you think that any of these feelings are out of control. However, I do want to let you know today, especially if you are a new mother, you are not alone with your anxiety and worry. I do not believe that one day you are going to be a good enough mother that you will not worry or that one day you will become a good enough Christian that you will not worry. But there are things you can do every day, every hour, every second to combat anxiety, and live a more peaceful, God focused thought life. Although it may seem like it’s our job to worry about our families, it is REALLY our job to run our homes and raise our families in the peace of God.

1. One of the best weapons against anxiety and worry is positive thinking.

Okay, calm down, I hear you, that might sound cheesy or worldly because that is the world’s term, but the world was not the one to come up with this idea. It was God. Remember this?

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Philippians 4:8

God made us. He knows how our minds work. He understands that we need to fill our minds with good thoughts in order to combat negative ones. Memorize Bible verses, talk to yourself lovingly, do some deep breathing, whatever you have to do to stay positive in the midst of worry, do it. Negative, worrisome thinking only leads to more negative thinking. We constantly need be dwelling on things that are good. Like God.

2. Which brings us to our second weapon-practice gratefulness.

I personally feel like one of the best ways to stop worry in its tracks is to thank God for the thing that you are worried about immediately right then and there. Peace and gratefulness go hand in hand.

And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. Colossians 3:15

How blessed are we to have lives so wonderful that we worry so much that something could change or be taken away from us? By practicing gratefulness, I mean: You are worried about your kids getting sick? Stop, and thank God for the health of your family. You are worried about your children getting hurt while they are with someone else? or maybe they are driving and you’re worried that they will get in an accident? Stop, and thank God for His protection over them. The Bible says we literally enter into the presence of the Lord when we are grateful.

Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations. Psalm 100:4-5

What could be more peaceful than the presence of the Lord?

3. What brings us more into the presence of the Lord than our third weapon- Prayer.

This should be a given. Talk to God. Tell Him your thoughts. Talk to Him about your fears. God does not want you to be filled with worry.

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7

Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Matthew 6:25-34

Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. 1 Peter 5:7

As women, we like to talk things out. It makes us feel better. So, yes, of course God knows you are worried. He knows your every thought and feeling. You are not talking to God for God’s benefit. You are telling him for your heart. Be assured that when you are talking to Him, He is listening. He cares about your thoughts and feelings, even the silly or just plain crazy ones. Tell Him.

4. Lastly, add to your life arsenal the weapon of Peace.

Wait, what? You might be thinking peace is the goal, the end, the outcome. But, friend, peace is so much more than that. Satan would just love for you to be too caught up in your own feelings and worries, that you miss the chance to do God’s work and live your life with the joy of the Lord. Peace is so vital to the Christian life, and God is willing to give it to us if we are willing to pursue it. By running peaceful homes, we set our children up to live and love more freely instead of being burdened by fretfulness. We set our husbands up to be successful in their work and their daily relationships when we emanate peace instead of anxiety. Life is stressful enough. I want my home to a safe, peaceful haven from the outside stress of our lives.

Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it. Psalm 34:14

And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7 

Deceit is in the heart of them that imagine evil: but to the counsellors of peace is joy. Proverbs 12:20

Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost. Romans 15:13

I could list on and on the verses in the Bible that talk about peace. You can and should read them for yourself though, and write them on your heart. As I said, there is no cure all to completely expel worry in life. If you have gotten to a place in your Christian life where you live without worry at all, please let me know your secrets. As mothers, sometimes every day will be a battle for peace. We have to seek, search for it, work for it, and ask for it. The Lord has given us the weapons to go to war, and he is willing to help. Fill your mind with positive thoughts, practice gratitude, pray about your worries, and pursue peace. Now, we just have to make the decision to fight.

In the Weeds

Last time I wrote to you I had just become a mother. Oh man, does motherhood not change everything? I needed a break. I needed to take in my new world and learn and grow in it.

Now, I have two children, and a wonderful husband. God has been so good to me. His ways have always been good. I wouldn’t want it any other way and I couldn’t have written a better story if I tried. I always thought my wedding day would be my happy ending. But it was just the beginning of a new life, a new love, and the new woman that God was making me into. I do feel very different than the girl who wrote those blog posts. So it didn’t feel right to keep writing on the same blog. Not to say that all those words aren’t important or true at all, and I’m still leaving them up for you to read. I just need a clean slate for all the new things I am and the things that I am learning. I am stronger, and more compassionate, and less selfish than I once was. I am wiser and more clueless in a lot of areas as well. Motherhood will do that to you.

Motherhood is not for the faint of heart. It’s not for the weak or the selfish.

So much of motherhood is “in the weeds.” Stepping from one phase to the next, doing your best, trying to figure out the best way- His way of doing things.

I used to speak in front of people, now I clean up Mac and cheese and fill up sippy cups. My words were read my thousands and now I repeat the same words over and over and over. My calling used to be to speak my heart over my blog and instagram and now my heart is living and breathing in two little babies that God stitched together inside my body. (Does that thought ever get old?)

I used to say that worship is not just for Sunday morning. It truly is in the way we live out every day life- perhaps even MORE than Sunday morning. It’s what we do when no one is looking, and so much of what we do as mothers is while no one is looking. Worship is not just what people see.

What I have come to realize is that this- raising my babies- is not what I do in the mean time until I can get back to my worship. It is my worship.

It is what I am literally offering up to the Lord as my sacrifice. It’s the work of my hands. It’s the service that I do for God with what he has entrusted me with. It is the calling right now. Every time I put my baby to bed, every time I make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, every time I change a diaper or tie a shoe, I am living out my purpose in this season of life.

And, honestly, I used to think that notion was silly until I became a mom. But, girls, what we do is so sacred and sweet and selfless. Taking care of these sweet souls is the work of the ages. Maybe I’m not meant to change the world, but maybe my daughter will. Maybe my son will. Just maybe they will be my greatest accomplishment.

I don’t need followers. I don’t need an audience. I have everything I need. I have all the equipment I need to do my job, to sing my song, to live out my worship here and now. And while the entire world may not get it or appreciate it, God says it is beautiful.

For those that have stuck around with me, I can only say thank you.

So here I am, here it is. I can’t promise to be here always because I have a job to do. I can’t promise to have the best pictures or style tips. And I definitely don’t have all the answers, but for all of us who have and are walking this journey together, I will share my heart.

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