Back in the warm summer days of July, New York magazine posted an article entitled, "All Joy and No Fun: Why Parents Hate Parenting," an examination of the current emotional and mental state of today's parents who were depicted as being harried, frustrated, and unfulfilled by the challenges of raising children. Not long afterwards, two Christian mommy-bloggers posted the article on The Mommy Revolution, resulting in scores of other Christian mothers chiming in with their own stories of frustration and weariness at the daily burdens of motherhood. "I just told my husband how unhappy I am," one commenter wrote, "I'm empty, exhausted, and fried."  

Motherhood can absolutely be a draining role, one that by definition necessitates constant sacrifice, which is never an easy thing. And yet, I wonder if the reason that today's Christian mothers have an unfulfilling parenting experience is because they have misunderstood the purpose of their lives, and how motherhood fits into that purpose to begin with.

When I first became a mother nearly a decade ago, as much as I loved my newborn baby boy, I also wrestled with a constant stream of internal questions: was motherhood supposed to be my highest or only calling? What was I supposed to do with other gifts and callings God had given me? Was I supposed to be wholeheartedly embracing motherhood as the cornerstone of my identity and the recipient of all my energies? Was asking these kinds of questions evidence that I was a bad Christian mother?

For the past year and a half, I've been pondering these questions. I've specifically wondered whether pursuing a missional lifestyle could be the key to helping mothers regain a sense of perspective and purpose in their lives. I spoke with about 40 different mothers whose lives reflect a missional perspective, who live with a strong sense of purpose and with the intentional desire to impact the world in whatever way God had calls them. These are women who clearly take their roles as mothers and wives seriously, but also keep those roles in the proper perspective, under God's lordship and direction for their lives.   

For example, take Tonya Herman. She is a mom of two kids who lives in Compton, California, someone who loves and ministers in her city despite its negative reputation. Tonya opened her home to two teenage boys from a local family so they can have a chance at academic progress and success. Or Shayne Moore, a Wheaton College graduate and suburban mom of three who went to hear Bono speak one evening at her alma mater and was forever changed. A self-described ordinary "soccer mom," Shayne would become a global advocate in the battle against HIV and AIDS through the ONE Campaign. Or consider Arloa Sutter, a mom who raised two daughters in the city of Chicago, and responded to God's call to reach the homeless and poverty-stricken men and women around her. She started by mobilizing her church to serve coffee to those in need, a ministry which became Breakthrough Urban Ministries and which now runs two shelters serving thousands of homeless people every year. If you meet women like this, you discover that while motherhood can indeed be exhausting, life as a mom can still be exciting and fulfilling as you pursue God's calling and purpose in your life.

North Park University professor and popular blogger Scot McKnight says, "Women have done the bulk of the ministry in the West for a long, long time. Mothers are typically the most missional people in the church." The more I began to interact with missional moms, the more I discovered that motherhood is not a phase in one's life that you have to just tolerate and survive. A missional mom is no less tired at the end of the day than other moms. But she goes to sleep knowing she has pursued God's mission for her life and made an impact in the world. And that is what makes all the difference.

This article posted March 14, 2011 on Crosswalk.com.

*This article originally posted Thursday, December 30, 1010 on EdStetzer.com.

Helen Lee is the author of The Missional Mom: Living With Purpose in the Home and in the World (Moody, Jan. '11). She is an award-winning freelance writer and editor with nearly two decades of experience publishing in the Christian market. She is the co-editor of and contributor to Growing Healthy Asian-American Churches (IVP, 2006) and co-founder of the Best Christian Workplaces Institute, which runs the annual "Best Christian Places to Work" survey. Helen has written numerous articles for publications such as Christianity Today, Today's Christian Woman, re:generation quarterly and Leadership Journal (LJ). In both 2008 and 2009, her articles for LJ earned Higher Goals awards in reporting from the Evangelical Press Association.

 She is married to classical pianist and Moody Bible Institute professor Brian Lee; together they have three young sons.  Helen is also a homeschooling mom and seeks to provide her sons with a classical Christian education; she and her family reside in Chicagoland.