The Mom Behind the Machine


I used to go to my room to cry.

I would hold it together until I fixed a snack for one child, pulled down a toy for another, and assigned math pages to two more. Finally, with trembling lip, I’d hustle down the hallway to the privacy of my bedroom.

There, my God and my pillow absorbed the tears. Because someone called with bad news. Or I didn’t get my way in marriage. Because it was the wrong time of the month. Or mothering and homeschooling four kids was just plain lonely and hard.

In those moments, God ministered to my tired mom-heart. Then, after a few beats of worship in the company of an oak four-poster and a highboy, I’d open my door with a new grip.

My kids had no idea. To them, their mom was a machine: token in – food out, lever down – laundry done, button pushed – consequence dispensed. Grit grinding gears. Pride powering  pistons. Control cranking the cogs. 

Sure, the machine would break down occasionally. She would blow a gasket or her engine would burn out. But just like machines do, she would disappear to “get fixed”, then slip right back into the assembly line, as if nothing ever happened.

Christian mothers are good at keeping doors closed. We preach of a Jesus who saves lost souls and carries sinners across the sand. We teach our kids hymns and prayers and how to forgive, but we never show them why we need those things so much.

I thought I was protecting them. I thought that by hiding away the ugly, I was creating for them a beautiful childhood. But instead, I was shutting them out from a beautiful Jesus.

What if I invited them in? What if…

Hey guys, I’m feeling sad today. I really need to hear God’s word. Can we stop and read some Psalms together?  Or…

I’m teary today because I’m really tired. Do you ever cry when you’re tired? Let’s pray right  now that God will give us just what we need.  Or..

I messed up and I’m feeling like God’s love is far away. Can we listen to some hymns so I can hear some truth? And… will you all pray for me today?

Oh, how wish I could see the road ahead as well as I can out my rear-view mirror…


Parenting asks us to be disciplined. It would be unfair to burden our children with the details of our emotional baggage or adult-sized worries, but we are called to teach them a big lesson.

“You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Deuteronomy 11:19

We’ve more than mastered the talking part.

But the God of excellence knows that kids learn best by watching, practicing, and doing.

So, in addition to the talking, God calls us to walk with our children along the way. The way to the grocery, church, and soccer practice? Yes. But mostly along the rough paths leading to repentance and rest.

I needed to learn that my goal isn’t to raise up happy, carefree children. It’s to hold up a Savior who’s worthy of their trust- especially on the crying days. 

The machine taught my kids that Christians work hard and have self-control. She also gave them security, love, and plenty of fun. But she may have also taught them that struggles are for kids.

Only a real mom with a real testimony can show her kids how to stumble into the arms of Jesus. Only an honest, humble mom can reveal God’s strength through heartbreak, doubt, and tearful worship.

Pride powered the machine, but grace fuels the mom.

Many of today’s tears come from regret and missed opportunities, but with my kids as my witness, I’m wiping them away with the gospel. Today, His spirit leads our daily walk, and my flesh is starting to peek through a rusted-out frame.

To the God of repentant mothers be the glory…

… and may our kids know it’s never too late to open the door.


“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.” Matthew 5:14-15

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19 thoughts on “The Mom Behind the Machine

  1. Susan B Mead June 30, 2015 / 4:47 am

    I needed to learn that my goal isn’t to raise up happy, carefree children. It’s to hold up a Savior who’s worthy of their trust- especially on the crying days.

    WOW! To hold up a Savior who’s worthy of trust.

    That’s powerfully compelling. And I thank you.

    Hugs. Susan ( neighbor at Kelly’s RaRaLinkup today.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Karen Brown June 30, 2015 / 4:49 am

      Thank you, Susan. May you trust in Him alone today. Thanks for stopping by!


  2. Kathryn Shirey June 30, 2015 / 5:06 am

    Great post! I’ve caught myself lately wanting to push my kids to “put on their game face and stop crying”, yet life comes with all the emotions and struggles and I realized it’s my job to coach them through it all. It’s important to allow and encourage tears because they’re part of the healing process. It’s important to acknowledge all our emotions, so we can process them and deal with them in healthy ways. It’s so hard, though – we want to show our kids our ‘best’ and we want to see their ‘best’, but great reminder that we’re not always going to have our ‘best’ moments and how crucial to share how God supports us in those moments too.


  3. Christan Perona June 30, 2015 / 5:24 am

    I love, love, love this. I hope and pray that through the brokenness and wounds, my kids will know the cross is not just for them but for their parents, too. Thanks for this great analogy and this truth of the Gospel.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Karen Brown June 30, 2015 / 5:32 am

      Thank you, friend! I’ve been thinking about you a lot lately and hoping that you are having a relaxing summer. Love you!


  4. Mary Geisen June 30, 2015 / 5:30 am

    I love coming here to soak in your words, Karen. I have been a closed door most of my life because my mom modeled the same example for me. I have only learned in the last few years that being authentic for the people around me not only shows them I am human but that the usual “I’m fine” is not always the truth. Your kids are blessed to be learning by your example and calling upon God to enter and be the center of your conversations is even better. Blessings my friend!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Karen Brown June 30, 2015 / 5:33 am

      Mary- Thank you for reading and leaving your kind words.


  5. Tai East June 30, 2015 / 8:05 am

    Amazing post, Karen! Every Mom needs to read the powerful truths you’ve shared here! Praying peace, strength, and many blessings over you, Love! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Angela Parlin June 30, 2015 / 8:06 am

    Wow, Karen…this is such a valuable story you shared. I too am a Mom of 4 (homeschooling), and a machine sometimes. I love what you said about your real goal though–“It’s to hold up a Savior who’s worthy of their trust- especially on the crying days.” It took me just getting to a season that was too hard for me to handle well anymore, for me to invite my kids into that mess and walk through it with me. So much to think abut here…thank you for sharing! #RaRaLinkup

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Bev Duncan @ Walking Well With God June 30, 2015 / 8:57 am

    “Pride powered the machine, but grace fuels the mom.” Amen!! My own mother was very stoic…rarely showing any emotion. I, too, thought that was how mothers were supposed to be. Except, I wasn’t my mom. I was the girl who wore her heart on her sleeve and I truly thought something was wrong with me when I couldn’t hold it together like my mom could. What I learned is what you have so beautifully pointed out…that our children NEED to know that Jesus is there in our joy, but also in our sadness, our struggles, our anger, our doubt. He is our rock on whom we can stand when all around us is sinking sand. My kids still tease me about how quickly I am brought to tears, but Hey, I’m a reflection of God’s sincerity and that’s ok too…wonderful post!!!
    Bev xx

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Carmen Workey June 30, 2015 / 11:51 am

    Poignant insights here, Karen… thank you for your authenticity. That parental discipline you speak of? Where we don’t burden our kids with adult worries & our own emotional baggage? Where we know the line about when to share & when not to? Ahhh… there’s the rub, I think. That fear that we’ll go too far keeps us in machine mode, right? Perhaps it’s that fear, at least in part, that fuels our machines sometimes. I wonder if that discipline is shored up on healthy discernnment about the line. That discernment, of course, can only come from the One to Whom we point our precious ones and the secure-and-scary-at-the-same-time kind of trust that’s required. Because really? Whether we hide our vulnerability or take it too far? We all screw up more than not, I think. Enter that Jesus we’re all desperate for. Because… grace. ❤️ (And hey – they all need SOMETHING to talk about in therapy, eh?!) Preach on, sister-mama!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Tiffany Parry June 30, 2015 / 12:04 pm

    Love this, Karen. Being honest and forthright with our kids – showing them what grace looks like and how we ALL need it – it is so powerful. I know I’ve tried to put on a tough face before and my son can usually see right through it. If he doesn’t know the truth behind it – it only serves to scare him because it rocks their world when we are rocked, doesn’t it? Thank you for this encouragement to live truth before all the lives set before us. So much of what they learn is caught, not taught. Blessings.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Katie M. Reid July 1, 2015 / 6:53 am

    Oh Friend- You know I’m a fan of your words- because they are written real, beautifully and speak straight to my heart. Thank you for showing up here with both authenticity and excellence.


  11. Simply Beth July 1, 2015 / 7:21 am

    My boys are 25 and 23 but we are now both learning as parents to be more real with them. I am grateful for how it’s never too late to live a life which points them to Jesus. Beautiful post.


  12. christy mobley July 1, 2015 / 3:41 pm

    Karen, I also sat down with my kids (as young as elementary age) from time to time and let them see the broken side of me. To my surprise they would stir my faith by telling me to ask God for help, or pray. From the mouth of babes…
    Blessings ~ Christy


  13. Kristin Hill Taylor July 1, 2015 / 7:51 pm

    “I needed to learn that my goal isn’t to raise up happy, carefree children. It’s to hold up a Savior who’s worthy of their trust- especially on the crying days.” –> YES, yes, yes. Goodness. You’ve put into words some of what I’ve been thinking lately. I needed this post today, so I’m glad you linked it up at #ThreeWordWednesday.


  14. sarahgirl3 July 4, 2015 / 10:06 am

    What a great idea! They need to know how to respond to those teary days. Lord help me when my two daughters are teenagers!


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