Have you ever struggled to break free from a toxic environment? Unhealthy relationships can ruin marriages and do damage to children. Today, we’ll talk about a mother-in-law who won’t let go of her son, an emotionally abusive mother and I’ll address a question from some worn-out moms. Be encouraged! God has answers!
Transcribed version of podcast is below.
Today’s Scripture Writing Challenge Verse
- Isaiah 40:27-28
Resources Mentioned In Podcast
- 7 Ways to Find Healing From Your Toxic Mom
- Walking Away From Toxic Relationships
- Dealing With Toxic Parents in a Christian Way
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Hey friends, this is Heidi St. John. Welcome to the podcast. Today is Monday, January 6th. This is episode number 868. This is Mailbox Monday, and man, we got a lot of ground to cover. You guys are turning in great questions and we’re going to get to a whole bunch of them today. Stick around, I think you’re going to be encouraged.
I hope you guys are enjoying the new year. This is one of my favorite times of the year, because it gives us an opportunity to sort of hit the reset button, start over, put all the things out on the table in front of us and lay them before the Lord. And we’re doing that at MomStrong International. The Bible Study Recalibrate kicks off today, so I just want to encourage you to join us, over at MomStrong International.
We are really excited about what God is doing there and we want to make a commitment with you, to help you get into the word of God with your kids this year. So I’ve said this before, and I’m going to say it again, you can’t give your kids what you don’t possess. We can’t pass on what we don’t possess, so if we want our children to walk in right relationship with the Lord, we need to be walking in right relationship with the Lord. If we want our children to really see the value and the benefit of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, to realize the blessing that comes from it, it has to start with us.
And so, I hope you guys will join us, MomStrong International, the Study recalibrate begins today. I also want to remind you that we have an awesome sponsor at the podcast, Evangelical Christian Credit Union, and I’m wondering if any of you decided to make financial changes for 2020? I bet you did.
So my husband and I sat down the other day, like we do at the start of every quarter really, especially in January, and we decided on some things that we want to do differently. And we always hit the financial area of our marriage. And so, if you want a fresh start for the new year, ECCU has been a friend of my podcast now, for quite a while, and they would like to help your children get a fresh start with their Young Start Account. It’s really easy to monitor activity and transfer money into your child’s account and best of all, there are no overdraft fees. And you can learn more at ECCU.org/Heidi.
I am two days into the cruise right now, that we are on, with the Florida Parent Educator’s Association. I want to remind you, I will be speaking for the FPEA conference this year, you can find out more about that by going to heidistjohn.com/events.
And also, I’m going to be in Lakeland, Florida, for Faith that Speaks, and my friend Elizabeth Johnston will be speaking with me. If you’ve never heard of Elizabeth Johnston, she runs a page called The Activist Mommy, she is a mother of 10, a passionate speaker, a passionate truth teller, and she’s going to be there, with me, for Faith that Speaks, in Lakeland, Florida.
Get your tickets, because you guys are going to want to come. Everybody who comes this year is going to get to hear, obviously Elizabeth, as well as myself. But then you’re also going to go home with a Faith that Speaks T-shirt, a swag bag, we’re going to give you lunch, we’re going to encourage you to walk with God, in a culture that has really strayed from the truth of God’s word, so come on out to Faith that Speaks, in Lakeland, Florida, February 21st and 22nd.
It really encourages me to see the questions that are coming in and to see you guys really pondering what God would have you do. So I’m going to answer a bunch of questions, I’m going to get to as many as I can today. And I want to encourage those of you, who’ve never turned a question in, the way to do it is to go to heidistjohn.com/mailboxmonday and I answer questions for the whole show on Monday and I try to answer at least one on Wednesdays, and then on Fridays typically we have a guest here at the show.
But I want to encourage you. There’s no topic that’s off limits. I think that Christians should be engaged in the culture, so we need to be talking about education, we need to be talking about entertainment, we need to be talking about politics. And we can disagree. And we need to continue to have the conversation, and then come before the Lord and say, “Lord, what do you want me to do?”
So the first question on the show today, comes from a mom named Amanda. And she said, “Heidi, how do you show support for family members, who do not feel able to homeschool, but also feel hopeless sending kids to public school and cannot afford a Christian school?” She says, “My in-laws have permanent custody of several of their grandchildren. And while they homeschooled their own children, they now feel they have reached retirement age and are also caring for their own elderly parents. They are maxed out physically, and emotionally, and financially. And Christian school doesn’t seem like a possibility, because of finances and distance from home. My mother-in-law sees the moral decline happening in the public school system and is weary of the constant battle to instill Godly values in her grandchildren, while the world wages war against them seven hours a day. I am homeschooling my three young children on my own, and don’t live close enough to offer help. How can I encourage and support her?”
All right, Amanda, I love your heart for your mother-in-law, what a blessing that they have, in having you in their family. And the first thing that I’m going to tell you is what you already know, but I feel the need to say it again, there is power in prayer. There is power in prayer, there is power in coming before the Lord. God knows the circumstances that are surrounding your family and he is saying, “Do not be afraid. Don’t be afraid.” If I was in your position, the first thing I’d be doing is asking your mother-in-law, how much support is she getting from her local church? It’s amazing, I can only imagine the circumstances that have led to her needing to take these children into her home, because obviously this was not the way that it was supposed to be.
And so, whenever we bind ourselves in situations like that, we come back to God’s word, and we realize that God has answers for us. God has an answer for your mother-in-law and an answer for them, as they are shepherding these children, which really they weren’t supposed to do. This isn’t the way it was supposed to be, and yet God says, “I will never leave you. I will never forsake you.”
I would be very interested, and this is just something to throw out there, something to think about, I don’t know where you guys live, or what part of the company that you’re in, but there are lots of options now, and opportunities, for kids to be educated online. And so there are many, many more options, and many, many more opportunities now, than there were even a few years ago, for children whose parents cannot afford Christian school and they don’t feel like they can take on the full burden of homeschooling. And so, I would be looking at that for her.
There are lots of free websites, lots of ideas, for parents who are in your mother-in-law’s situation. Believe it, or not, I get questions like yours quite a bit at the podcast and it seems that there are a lot of parents and grandparents that are in your mother-in-law’s situation right now, so I’d let her know she’s not alone.
Check out James Dobson’s Family Talk, has been addressing this issue. And I would just encourage you to come alongside her and keep encouraging her to be involved in the public school, where her children are at. So if she can’t take them out, if she has no other option, and I realize that that’s the case for people, on occasion, that they absolutely have no other option, then you have no option other than to be involved in your child’s public school.
One of the reasons why we took our kids out was because I realized that I don’t have the time to go to the public school with them. So if it was happening in my kid’s lives, and I had to have them in public school, I’d be inclined to be down there saying, “Hey, my name’s Heidi, I brought my own seat, I’ll be here all day with my little folding chair. I’m just going to be going to class with my kid. If you guys need anything, let me know? I can do bulletin boards.” But we’ve got to be in there, because one of the insidious things that’s happening in the public schools are the schools are teaching, especially social engineering, homosexuality, transgenderism, socialism, all kinds of ideas being taught to students, they go home and they don’t tell their parents, or in this case their grandparents, and then the parents are not aware and these ideas take root.
So whether your kids are in Christian school, or whether they’re in public school, if you are a parent right now, you have no choice, or in this case a grandparent, who is parenting, you have no choice, but to engage, engage, engage. And I’m going to be praying for your mother-in-law, because I know she’s got her work cut out for her, I also know that the Lord is going to honor her.
The next question comes for a mom who says, “Heidi, I need to know how to manage all the things. When you’re pregnant and you have young children and your partner doesn’t pitch in much. This question is actually coming to you from two moms, in the same situation. She is expecting her sixth baby, early next year, and I have had my seventh, last May. She says her house is always a mess, and mine is, too. And she and I are both angered by the mess. We repeatedly ask the children to complete their chores and tidy up after themselves, to no avail. One, or two, of the children will do the work and the others always avoid it. Sometimes it seems like those one, or two, are doing the work for everyone. I step away from the family, during a chore time, to nurse the baby for a nap, while my friend suffers from a lack of energy to always be around monitoring the children’s progress. I just want it to be neat and tidy, and the mess angers me. And they go off to play and expect me to be the maid. I can’t keep up anymore, and I’m tired of talking, it’s not so much defiance, as it is laziness and childish foolishness. Both families teach Biblical values at home, attend church regularly, pray together, and so on.”
So, this is a great question. And it’s a question I get quite a bit, from moms who are just sort of worn out. And scripture has nothing good to say about laziness. So I’m going to just start you right there, because it sounds like… And honestly, when our kids are lazy, part of it is because we are tired. When we’re tired, our kids get lazy. In Proverbs Chapter 10, Verse 4, the Bible says, “Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth.” Proverbs 12:24, “Work hard and become a leader. Be lazy and become a slave,” or a socialist. Proverbs 20, Verse 4, “Those too lazy to plow in the right season, will have no food in the harvest.” And Proverbs 19:15, ” Laziness brings on deep sleep, and the shiftless go hungry.”
And the Bible commands us to work hard and to not be lazy. This is one of my arguments against socialism, because the Bible has a lot to say about the individual and the individual’s responsibility. And I know what you mean about having kids at home, where it feels like a couple of the kids do most of the work, and the other ones avoid it. I think that’s true in every family dynamic, and it’s very easy for the mom to rely on those kids who are so good at helping, and let the other ones become lazy, and really they become entitled. When they realize that their other siblings are doing the work for them.
And so, we want to be encouraging our children away from that. And to be getting alongside our children and saying, “Nope, this isn’t going to happen anymore.” And I would encourage you to really be implementing consequences for laziness. So at our home, there was a season, and it’s been a long time now, but when I was raising seven children, and the house was full, and super busy, and I’m nursing a baby, and got teenagers, and the whole thing, I noticed a pattern happening with our children, and we decided, my husband and I, to basically pare our house down to the essentials. So if they couldn’t clean up their toys, they lost their toys.
And so, I know it sounds harsh, I know, nobody write me. I actually still feel really good about my decision. And it was a long time ago, but we took most of their toys and put them in a box, and put the box in the garage. And that garage box stayed there for almost six months, until I recognized that my children were beginning to clean up after themselves, because I wasn’t their maid. And so, the same thing was true in the kitchen, if they can’t clean up the kitchen, then I’m not going to let you have toys. If you can’t clean up after yourselves, or be responsible for certain parts of the home, then it’s going to affect you in other areas of your life.
God honors responsibility. And we want to teach our children to be responsible. Why? Because everything we do is for the glory of God, right? 1st Corinthians 10:31. So whatever you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. The Bible teaches us that the care of homes and the care of our families is something that God values. God values it when we do that, so we want to be very, very careful to teach our children, and we model that.
So mom, if you’re always grumpy and angry, because you’re kids aren’t doing the work that they’re doing, a lot of times we’re bringing it on ourselves. And so, the Bible says in Proverbs 31:27, “She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.” Proverbs 14, “The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish one tears it down with her own hands.”
I think it’s important for us to stay faithful, even when we’re tired, even when we’re weary, right? The Bible says, “Don’t grow weary in well doing,” because at the appropriate time, you will reap a reward if you don’t give up. I want to encourage you away from a place of feeling like you have no other options and your children, this is just how it is, because I don’t think that, that’s true. And I don’t think that, that’s God’s heart for you. So I’d be rewarding them for hard work, I’d be implementing consequences when they don’t get their work done. And you know what? In the short run, Mom, that’s going to make more work for you, but in the long run it’s going to produce a blessing. And the Bible calls that blessing The Peaceful Fruit of Righteousness. So keep that in mind, and keep your hands to the plow, it’s so important.
Next relationship comes from a mom, who wishes to remain anonymous, she says, “Heidi, what do you do with toxic relationships in your life? My mother has lived her entire life, and mine, in a state of victim mentality and manipulative relationships, and I am hanging on by a thread with her. She raised us in church and hides it all under the guys of Christ and how we should honor and respect her, however her remarks, digs, and refusal to see the chaos she has caused is becoming too much to bear. If I walked away tomorrow and didn’t talk to her again, I’m ashamed to say, I would be okay with it.”
Okay, so you’re not alone. There are a lot of us that grew up with abusive relationships that went into our adulthood. I was the same way. My parents struggled in their marriage, my father was abusive, and I think that as we begin to grow up, we start seeing things differently, and then somehow, for whatever reason, we end up staying in those relationships with that toxic person. And we believe that somehow that’s what God would want us to do, but I don’t think that that’s true, at all. What would happen if we stayed in relationships that were liabilities in our lives and not assets. So if you’re going to develop a healthy relationship, the truth is, you’ve got to cut off the unhealthy ones that you have developed.
And so, this is hard. And I’m not going to sit here and say, “Well, this is really easy, just don’t talk to your mom for a long time.” No, it’s very, very difficult, but God will help you. And I think that once we realize that God is for us and he does not desire you to be a doormat, particularly not when it comes to relationships with your parents, or anybody else in your life. That’s all right, you don’t have to be ashamed. Isaiah 43, verse 1, says, “Listen to the Lord who created you.” The one who formed you says, “Do not be afraid, for I have redeemed you. I have called you by name, you are mine.”
And I think as children of parents who have been abusive, sometimes we feel this sense of shame and a sense of guilt. We wonder, “If only I did this, maybe my mom wouldn’t be angry, or sad. If only I had done this, maybe my dad wouldn’t have done this.” And ultimately, you need to remember that God says that you are his. And he loves you unconditionally. And he loves your mom unconditionally. You’re not responsible to fix what’s wrong with your mom, God is responsible for our mothers, God is responsible for our families, not us.
And there was a time, a season in my life, when my husband decided to totally cut off communication with one of my parents, and it was very difficult for me. And I had to grieve that loss in my life, but you know what came out of that season of silence? And it was actually several years. Healing came out of that. And I learned, that even if my mother and my father abandon me, the Lord will hold me close. This is a promise out of Psalm 27. And you sound to me like you’re at a point, where you need to sever that relationship for a time, so that you can start living in a healthier relationship. And I think more important than ever, is to recognize that your kids are watching you. And if they see you living in an abusive relationship, if they see you putting up with it, I’m telling you what, they will also struggle with it their adult lives. Your children need to know that they can be free. They can be free, and they can make choices that are healthy for themselves. And they learn that by watching you.
And the last thing I would encourage you to do is to recognize you can forgive somebody, without being reconciled with them. I’m going to say that again, because that’s hard for some of you. You can forgive someone, without being reconciled. You can forgive someone, without being pulled back into the drama, and pulled back into the relationship. Forgiveness does not mean that you grant trust automatically, or that you’re automatically restored. Forgiveness is really the beginning of healing. We forgive because Christ asks us to forgive, but we also need to establish boundaries. So we can keep forgiving our mom, or forgiving our dad, even if reconciliation might not be possible, until other changes are made. And I think a lot of times that means that we have to step away.
And you guys, there’s a season, all right? There’s a season the Bible teaches us for everything. And for me, there was a season in which I had to step away from the relationships that were hurting me, partly because my husband could see that what was happening was, I was going to take a generational sin and pass it on to the next generation, which was the last thing that I wanted to do. And so, I just want to encourage you, there is freedom, hang in there, all right? Hang in there.
I’ve got one more question about a mother who seems to be an abusive mother-in-law. So we’ve all seen relationships like this, this is not my family, I actually have a fantastic mother-in-law, for which I am very, very grateful. But this girl says that her mother-in-law still sees her son as her little boy, and she’s obsessed with her son. He was her only child born out of multiple miscarriages and her son is soft natured and he stands to the side. And the wife in the situation, is feeling very wounded and very hurt.
Now this is a pretty common thing. And there’s a great article at Focus on the Family, and I link back to it in the show notes today, it’s called, Seven things to remember when your in-laws can’t let go. And they give you some suggestions, if you’re caught in the conflict, between a parent who wants to be involved in the marriage, and not just involved with their adult children and seeing them as married.
And point number 1 is, a healthy marriage has two independent adults, who have left their parents. I’m going to say that again. A healthy marriage consists of two independent adults, who have left their parents. Right? This comes straight out of Genesis 2:24, it says, “Therefore a man should leave his father and his mother, and hold fast to his wife, and the two should become one flesh.”
Two, the marriage always comes first. The marriage relationship always comes first. And if you have a husband, or a wife, that would prefer to be with their parents, rather than the spouse, there are probably some issues that are happening, that go well beyond what you can deal with, outside of counseling. Outside of counseling, all right? I always tell my moms, marriage comes before mothering, and people don’t like it when I say that, but that’s true. And it’s the truth, when your parents are trying to parent you and you are an adult.
Three, we are only responsible for our own responses. I loved what they said here, this might seem obvious, but in a moment of conflict, it can be difficult to remember what we’re responsible for. Gregory explains that when we face an issue with our in-laws, there are two ways of dealing with it, reactive and responsive.
So reactive is when you immediately respond with fear, and panic, and anger. So maybe your mother-in-law subtly, or not subtly, tells you you’re doing it wrong, or she’s hogging your husbands time and she doesn’t care. And you immediately respond, right? With fear, or panic, or anger.
Responsive is when you take a moment, consider the implications of what you’re about to say, and respond with grace. And you might say to your spouse, “This isn’t working for us, we need a new plan.” And then come together to figure out what works for both of you.
So this is a great article, super great, I’m going to link back to it. They also say, “Boundaries are necessary for healthy living. Don’t let ideal expectations make you forget real people.” Hello, like, “This year Christmas will be perfect.” Right? We want to be careful of our expectations. All right.
And then ultimately we remember that we need the wisdom and grace that comes from God. Colossians, Chapter 3, verses 8 and then 12 and 13, says, “But now, you must put them all away, anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, Holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, bearing with one another. And if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other, just as the Lord has forgiven you.”
So also, you must forgive. And I know it can be difficult to respond with love and grace, and that’s why prayer is such a gift. And we need to pray for the attitude that Christ Jesus would have and then trust him, that he is going to finish the work. Not just in you, not just in your husband, but also in your in-laws, and the lives of your children, because they are watching.
I want to thank you guys for listening today. I’ve got a couple more questions and I can’t get to them today, so I’ll try to address a couple of them on Wednesday. Keep your questions coming, you can submit them at heidistjohn.com/events. Don’t forget to register for the Lakeland, Florida, Faith that Speaks conference. That’s happening February 21st and 22nd, we’re going to have a great time out there, with my Women’s Ministries team and my family. I’m telling you what, it will be a day and a half that will change your life. Thanks for listening everybody, and I will see you back here, on Wednesday.
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Heidi St. John
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