Posted by: Sally | April 7, 2008

Some Monday Thoughts about criticism

The past week, I have been flooded with lots of Biblical thoughts in response to various people and issues in my life–but since I am in the midst of writing two books and taking care of life, I don’t have as much time as I would like to post. So if it is rough and unedited, please know that I know. One of my sweet friends was blasted by a “well-meaning” friend about her lovely daughter–who is by God’s design a thoughtful introvert and reader and creative type. I just wanted to address this as there are all sorts of people out there who could make us feel inadequate about our mothering or even ponder if we are ruining our children.

Job’s friends pontificated–elaborated in confident tones and words–about why Job was suffering–and most it was utter foolishness. It only had the effect of discouraging Job and made him introspective–even though he was picked to be in this spiritual battle because of his righteousness. We are always going to have Job’s friends in life. (we call them irps at our house–irrational people, plural) We have even been known to say, “oh, I have been irped again!” No matter how diligent you are or how much work you do, you and your spouse and your children are going to behave in an embarrassing manner-or immature way or they are going to break someone else’s standard–more than once! And your Job’s friends will be sure to tell you what you are doing wrong or how unsocialized your child is or how their children are much more advanced than yours, or whatever.

I am thankful that I finally came to understand that my audience was God. He knows me and my limitations and the limitations of my family and children and He is still on my side.(He strongly supports them whose heart is completely His. Also, He is mindful that we are but dust.) All children are disappointing to someone as some point–that is where faith and unconditional love are made to move in!

Even in ministry and speaking, I have even learned that before I even get up to speak, someone in the audience is against me or doesn’t like my choice of dress or something. It is just part of putting my ideals out there. If I listened to every critical comment that was made to me, I would have given up my ministry and my ideals long ago.

However, I am free in God to like who He has made me to love and believe in my children and to be patient and grateful with the husband I have been given–because He who began a good work will complete it in Christ. It is part of a woman’s grace to be gracious to those in her family. I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him until the day He fulfills it. If I had given in to my insecurities and inadequacies I felt before others, I would have given up on this road to ideals a long time ago–and it is just a part of the journey–the ups and downs of emotions–I would have always been depressed or become neurotic–which I have been on occasion.

But, I have had so many life circumstances, given to me by God, that have taught me that fitting into the mold or expectations of others was not God’s will for me. As a matter of fact, I feel that if I had followed all the advice of friends, I could have easily cultivated rebellion or resentment in the hearts of my children. But, God gave them to me for me to love them, discipline and nurture them according to their bent and according to the wisdom and intuition He would give to me through my mother love.

For instance, all of my children had areas in their lives that didn’t fit the box of anyone else. Sarah is a dreamer, introvert, close to her mom–how many times did I hear we were too close to each other. Now, my co-writer and bestest friend–and yet she travels all over the world in ministry, speaking and encouraging others. I am so grateful we are so close. Joel, so abstract and artistic that at times my mom thought he was deaf because he wouldn’t hear me when I would talk to him or ask him to do something—he is extremely  responsive and helpful and submissive and loyal–but i had to speak to him eye to eye and face to face to help him know exactly what I wanted him to do. Now he is a composer, creative, brilliant absent minded professor but still dependable and hard working but not at all time oriented–always in the clouds planning or creating.

My Nathan didn’t sleep through the night until he was 4 (ended up he had a digestion disorder we didn’t know about!) He also is an extrovert and adhd–really, really-and he also has some clinical disorders that have plagued him over the years. (Got them from me.) I had so many people who told me that he just needed more discipline–“you are not spanking him enough!” I also had a number of friends who were critical of his behavior and immature bouts over the years. Instead of supporting me and helping me, I found their critical eye to be devastating. I was so introspective about my inadequacies with my “mysterious” child. And yet, I know in my heart, that harshness and spanking and criticism would created standards that he would never have been able to live up to–I know that I would have alienated him in his heart from me.

As I would love Nate and validated him whenever I could, spent every day of his schooling years sitting with him through hours and hours in reading and math and written work–when everyone else told me he needed more independence. I had a sense that this great spirited child was wonderful and responded to attention (middle child–second boy!) and that he was soaking up my passion and love and stories deep in his heart.

Joy is a fire-cracker, confident, a performer, outgoing, always wants to be doing something—strong sense of personal justice and ready to fight you about it! But a great heart and afterall, she has grown up around 5 parents! Each one was a different recipe and required different amounts of heat! Yet, none of them has fit the  mold–and it was just to much pressure to worry about, anyway. I knew that God wanted me to enjoy life and to be flexible and creative with the particular puzzle he gave me to solve.

We held the line on chores and helping all to be excellent in character and behavior and serving people and in learning little by little to being loving and patient and kind in relationships, but it was year in year out and my very strong spirited children were always resilient! There were, however, many, many ups and downs. I wish I had been more patient with all of my children, really as I think about it and kissed and hugged them at nights all that they needed. (Sometimes Nate would forget that I had prayed with him and wanted one more assurance prayer. I would think, “Am I spoiling him? Is he manipulating me?” I know now that his disorders were beyond him–he responded so well to gentleness and love along side training and holding a high standard in our family. I had two other ocd children who felt more secure when I gave them the long rituals of hug, kiss, pray, absolve guilt, hug, kiss again. But really, what did it cost me?

Just this morning, all four happened to be home, lounging with the totally depraved golden retriever in our midst as Joel played his new composition which he is going to perform for Berklee school of music in Boston at the end of the month. (Please pray for favor for him!) We were enjoying, critiquing,  chatting–all in our pajamas at 10 in the morning and I am here thanking God that my children are such wonderful individuals–filled and broad and alive souls, dreaming about the areas of life they will conquer.

But now I know that some of it was just personality–I myself often feel that my personality is too much for some people–I am strong and passionate and opinionated and restless and adventuresome–a one per center as Myers Briggs says–and I often feel that way amongst crowds! Yet, I believe God equipped me with this out of the box personality because of His calling on my life–to teach and write and travel and speak and host and everything else He has put in my life to do–a part of my dna.

As to my real out of the boxer, not much has changed, but I have changed and experience so much joy with knowing him. At almost 19, Nate is still very much out of the box, too–loud, dresses his own way, has all sorts of interesting friends, musical tastes and activities–but I love who God made him. He is intelligent and insightful (all that reading and all those passionate devotions.) He has a heart for the lost and has a real ministry with the “far out” looking kids. He is writing incredible music and has big dreams–quite a natural performer–music, acting, etc.–definitely an artist sort. He loves his mom and dad and has had to take some strong stands for the Lord, over and over again and has passed many tests of integrity–but trusts Him every day. He has written non-negotiables in his cell phone–he is not a tame lion, but he is God’s and I believe that God has great plans for his life. He doesn’t fit the mold, but then neither have Clay and I, or Sarah or Joel or Nathan or Joy. All that to say, live true to your own family culture–and be faithful to God. Don’t perform for others, but live daily in His freedom and power and grace. We have been criticized for years by many people for our ideals. We have had to work through many pathways of difficulty.

But I only wish I had just rested in the Lord more and fretted less about the details of life that seemed to loom large in my mind. Not that I have already become perfect, as Paul says, but I press on for the upward calling of God in Christ Jesus. I have to keep reminding myself to believe in God and to trust HIm every day and to wait for more prayers for all of us to be answered–especially as I watch my children launch into life.

I have lived through so many seasons of fear and see that the hand of God was working and that He is loving and He has used all things to work together in our lives. I seek to enjoy each day as an adventure in God’s hands and nurture a heart that has learned to enjoy the ride. I don’t know how it will all turn out–but I know who will be there to do things beyond my own imagination and yet in the end, according to His will which is what I really want. It is for freedom that Christ set us free–give your children the gift of freedom from fear, from other’s criticism and from performance. Blessings–more later as I have time!



  1. Oh Sally … I’m so glad you’re you. I have lived and walked some of those roads you speak of. Be encouraged! You are not just living those lessons for yourself and your children — but God is giving you wisdom beyond years to share with US. We are so very very thankful He is.
    Blessings abundant as you enjoy your unique, funky, happy, and individual children!!

  2. Sally,
    I am the Sara who emailed you last week, and I’ve been reading your blog since! I, likewise, am glad God made you who you are, b/c you are a source of encouragement for me. As we seem somewhat similar in personality, may I ask what your unique (Myers-Briggs) profile is? I am a rare INFP, and never really feel “understood” by the majority of the population–so I hear you, Sister! 🙂 I am just beginning to combat the voices of criticism that steal my joy, and I celebrate with you the TRUTH that GOD, our loving Father, Whose wrath has been satisfied in Christ and Who lavishes us with grace, is our only audience! 🙂

  3. Thank you for your comments.

    I think every one of us has ‘that child’ at some point in our parenting. Sometimes ‘that child’ changes from child to child, but there is always one that seems to be giving their parents pickled fits in one area or another.

    Thank you for the reminder that God did not create our children to fit into any mold but His.

    Thank you for reminding us that we are not accountable to anyone for the traning of our children, save their Creator.

  4. I am so thankful for you! Thank you for reminding me to embrace my children and their differences. I’m going now to hug on them…. 🙂

  5. Dear Sweet Sally,

    Thank you so much for encouraging me to listen to my Heavenly Father’s voice and not man’s voice. I have struggled with that most of my life, living to please man and their standards and not the Lord’s. Your words are so very encouraging..The Lord Bless You and your family abundantly as you go on listening to His voice alone…


  6. Sally, again, your heart speaking to mine! My second son ( have 3) is the “different” one. Right now I am plagued by worry on what my family is going to think of my three boys when we visit NC in June. Are they going to thing they are smart? Disciplined? Nice? Fun? And yes “socialized enough”. Some days are really hard, but I also know whom I believe…and He really does work all of this for good for those who love Him. I will trust and strive to live in His freedom!

  7. Once again I am blessed and encouraged by your shared thoughts. My life: two parents, five kids, lots of personalities, special needs, unique choices, home schooling, God directed … sounds like we have a lot in common. Sadly, pain from close friends and family shouldn’t be an issue, BUT IT IS! I seek to please my Savior, but hugs from those around go a long way in making the daily walk more pleasant. Thank you, thank you for your courage to share and encourage. I feel hugged! : )

  8. Oh my, these are powerful words. I so desperately needed these affirmations of God’s plan and mercy for our lives. I can be so quick to question my mothering, even in discussions with my husband, and needed this reminder that our children are unique, and so is our parenting. I love your term “irps” and have to say that I recognize their influence in my life, and pray to be strong in the face of criticism and stay focused on God’s agenda for our family.
    Thank you for these well chosen and encouraging words.

  9. Thank you so much for the encouragement. You know I needed it! I am living God’s call for our family, and well-meaning friends are not the one’s I’m accountable to. As well as they know my children, I have to remember that they do not know them as well as I do, and know them not at all in comparison to God’s intimate knowlege of their personality, talents and calling.

  10. Sally, thank you for your words of wisdom and encouragement! I needed them, not even so much in relationship to parenting as much as just in my own life and being led of the Lord to live “outside the box”! Your words are so inspiring and just the reminders I needed. I am so happy that you and Clay will be coming to Canada at the end of this month for our homeschool convention! Many blessings to you.

  11. (((((Sally))))), thank you for the reminder of so many things!

    1.) The chief end of man is to glorify God, not people, and to enjoy His presence forever.
    2.) We are our children’s parents. We know them and love them more than anyone else. We know what’s best for our babies, not someone who finds their personalities to be beneath them.
    3.) God put us together on purpose.
    4.) Some kids don’t respond to “traditional” methods. That doesn’t mean we’re terrible parents.

    I could go on. My own dear Dub struggles with a couple of things, and I can relate to several of the things you said. I’ve heard the “you need to spank him more” thing. I’ve also experienced the relationship rifting, spirit crushing effect of “usual and customary” discipline. Why, oh why, did I cave to other peoples’ wisdom about raising my child??

    These challenging children are such treasures! I would not trade Dub for anything. I am so thankful for him and look forward to seeing what God has in store for his life.

    People just don’t understand, but thank God for his grace to deal with our own unique situations without condemnation from Him.

    Thanks for your apt words, Sally dear.



  12. Thank you for your faithful encouragement. Many of your words echo in my heart as I teach my children.

  13. Thank you for your words of encouragement. I wish I could feel more like this:

    I seek to enjoy each day as an adventure in God’s hands and nurture a heart that has learned to enjoy the ride.

    But I like to know what is going to happen…just waiting drives me crazy. Doing what I can and leaving the rest to God has always been a bit of a struggle for me.

  14. Sally, looks like you have touched a cord..maybe there are a lot more 1 percenters out there! I, too, am a misunderstood mommy. I am at the stage where my confidence can only be found in Him! My kids are all so unique, often I feel so under qualified! But..then there is God! Something about when I am weak, and nothing is impossible, and my accountability is with Him, it goes on and on! Thanks for writing it down, and reminding me to be careful with my words and not to be one of the irps!

  15. Oh Sally! Thank you for such a timely post! I too sometimes feel that I am just too opinionated, passionate and all for others. Being reminded to rest in who God has made me, knowing that it’s ok that I’m not already perfect, I just have to press on… – what a wonderful reminder.

    Your Nathan sounds like a wonderfully gifted person. Reminds me of the story of the potter and the clay. Who are we, the clay, to question the ways of the Potter? I picture the Potter spending extra time on the “Nathan vessel” shaping him just right, extra specially for the task that lays before him. I guess that’s just like you said God has done with you, and I’m finding He’s doing with me – but it’s ever so much easier to see it in another person sometimes.

    And God knew that you would be courageous enough to follow His guidance rather than everyone else’s. Seeing the beautiful fruit of that gives me courage. It is just all together too easy sometimes to be disheartened by criticism.

    Be faithful to God… rest in the Lord… what simple but profound exhortations. Thank you for taking the time from your book writing to bless us!

  16. Thank you so much for this very timely post. We also have 5 children, their personalities all over the board. And that middle child seems to always have the distinction in our family of being “that one” who seems to have special needs.

    I wish I could have the insight more often to take a step back and realize that God made him in a special way to do a special job. I need reminded of it from time to time. Thank you.

    You are a blessing. Thanks again for the encouraging words. Your relationship w/ your daughters is beautiful. I am praying for close relationships w/ mine.

    This is actually the first time I have read your blog, my mom told me about it. I love it already and I will be referring to it often. Would you mind if I linked to your blog from mine?

  17. I am always encouraged by your words of wisdom and insight. I thank God for you and your faithfulness to serve Him by ministering to homeschooling moms. Your words are filled with God’s grace and love, which I cling to and embrace. Thank you.

  18. Thank you so much for such encouraging words. So many times I question how I am doing as a mother–and I know there’s tons of room for improvement–but reading your thoughts I am reminded of the important things in life.

  19. Dear Sally,
    I’m so glad that you posted this because it came at such an appropriate time in my life, especially in dealing with the “irps” of life :o) lol
    But it also has helped me to remember to live in such a way with these people that God gets glory, through me in walking in love & in forgiveness.
    You encourage me everytime you post, Thank you!
    God bless!

  20. Between irps and egrs (extra grace required :)) we have our hands full, don’t we, Sally. Oh, I know–we’re the irps and egrs at times, too, lest we boast in anything other than God’s love and patience for us.

    I’m a new reader (Mission of Motherhood) and a new blog visitor, prompted to see you by my friends Bev and her daughter, Sarah.

    This post, in particular is a balm to my aching heart as we navigate the waters with our children, one of whom has “issues” much as you described with your son.

    What a great reminder to give it all back to Jesus, and wait for His plan to unfold.

    Blessings on your week, new friend.

  21. Hi Sally, I have just read your book Mission of Motherhood and just wanted to say that it was exactly what I needed to read at this moment! I could say the same about this post- I’m struggling with the fear of others opinion’s right now…we are from Texas, but live overseas and are considering homeschooling. It’s not as common where we are and we’ve met quite a lot of opposition. I’ve been so discouraged and to the point of just saying forget it, we’ll put the kids in public schools here- but after reading this post I’m encouraged to keep praying and asking God for direction in this matter…and choose not to worry about what other’s think of our family. Thank you.

  22. Sorry, didn’t put both our names on the post above- haha! Charity

  23. With fear and trembling, Sally, I too have lived a similar testimony with regard to parenting and homeschooling my five children (and my third child also did not sleep through the night until he was four years old!). Thank you for affirming that following the Lord’s still, small Voice leads to a unique path for each family.

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