Today I am excited to share with you this interview with my dear friend Julie Pizzino. She loves the Lord Jesus Christ and His church. She has been a wonderful “older” Titus 2 woman in my life, especially as we share a passion to see the gospel in action in our communities and around the world.
Worthy Hope: Can you share a little bit about who you are, how far apart your kids are and what were your circumstances parenting when they were ages 10 and younger?
Julie: I am Julie Pizzino, 67 years old, wife of 47 years, mom of 45 years with three children, and now grandmother, pastor’s wife for over four decades, English teacher (usually part-time) of either homeschoolers or at a classical Christian school.
Our sons are two and a half years apart, and when they were twelve and almost fifteen, we welcomed by international adoption a daughter into our home. I was blessed to be at home for the rearing of our children, although I did tutor and teach homeschoolers along the way. Our children had diverse educational needs, because one had learning differences, one was gifted, and one was bright and especially creative in the arts.
When our sons were little, my husband Randy was able to assist at times, coming home for lunch from his office at the church building. Then as they grew older, his time had more demands upon it. He also regularly traveled to minister in other places. Sometimes that was hard, but I was supportive of his ministry and gave myself to extending hospitality and enjoying the work of the ministry with him. The Lord encouraged me through friends who had me in their homes, kept up with me by phone, and came alongside me when demands were stiff.
WH: Did you have a theological framework with which to look at the daily difficult circumstances of motherhoood when you first experienced them? What was it?
JP: Oh, how I wish I’d been more intentional about developing a theological framework for my mothering! I often chafed at the demands of the littles, longing for the free time I’d once had to read as long as I wanted, spend time with friends, and sleep consistently. But I did not cultivate a Gospel grid until our third child came long. Then I recalled how quickly time passes and how worthy the calling of mothering is. Those experiences of wife and mother have revealed sin in me like nothing else and have made me call out to the Lord for grace over and over again. I remember vividly a night when one of our children had a stressful day and did not make it to the bathroom in time several times that day and then again that night. I felt so hot and angry inside for all the extra work this child was causing me. Once I cleaned up yet another mess, I went downstairs to our living room, sat quietly before my Father, and confessed my inability to be obedient, gentle, and effective as a mother. I told the Lord, “I do not want to go on like this. Please help me!” Although I have had many, many times of failure since then, it was a breakthrough for me to realize that I could not do this hard thing of mothering unless the Lord supernaturally helped me. He graciously answered that prayer by causing me to learn to die to myself.
On a natural level we avoid dying to ourselves. It is painful, costly, and counterintuitive to the pursuit of happiness to which we think we are entitled. But here is the truth: dying to ourselves in our being wives and mothers is the pathway of joy, just as Jesus endured the cross for the joy which was set before Him. And then because of the resurrection, we are raised after these little deaths to better understanding of and love for Christ, our husbands, and our children, as well as renewed spiritual vigor.
WH: You are a grandma now. How has the Lord grown your perspective on the little years? How has he sharpened your theology of suffering?
JP: Because I now “get” how brief the little years are, I am savoring every moment with my granddaughter Lizzy. I am overwhelmingly grateful that I get to share the Gospel with her, using the Jesus Storybook Bible. At nap time or bed time, she begs to hear about Jesus. I see clearly how much our daughter and son-in-law must deny themselves in order to parent Lizzy well. While the self-denial is absolutely a form of suffering, there are rich rewards of observing how pouring into her brings the fruit of obedience and even joy. But physical and emotional fatigue are real. I see more clearly now how important it is for a mom to have a community who can support and relieve her. I believe the Lord’s heart is very much toward young mothers and that He understands the trials of the repeated questions, the messes, interrupted sleep, and more.
WH: What were/are some of the temptations that you faced? What truth (s) reoriented your heart when you were tempted?
JP: As I look back, I see there were many points of temptation.
~~I would forget the importance of the work I was doing with my children at home. Much of it seemed so tedious and mundane.
~~I would forget the Lord was with me every moment. That truth alone would have kept me going at times.
~~I would forget to cry out to Him. That seems sadly laughable now, but it seems I would grit my teeth and persevere through the hard times, when I could have cried out to Him for more grace and strength.
I did have some truly wonderful friends who were mothering the same time I was, and they “carried” me many times and are still friends to this day. My friends’ faithful encouragement kept me going. And God has been so, so good to give me Titus 2 women throughout my life, women who have generously counseled me and prayed for me. I do not know what I would have done without them. I would urge every young mom to find such women and ask for spiritual help.
I have heard that a mom’s favorite verse is “And it came to pass.” But for me the verses about courage are the ones that speak to a mom’s challenges. Joshua 1:9 would be a great motivator for me now as a mom: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
WH: How has your growing understanding of the gospel impacted your perspective on motherhood in the mundane?
JP: My growing understanding of the gospel has been the biggest factor in my valuing mothering and grandmothering in every little moment. The gospel gives us the “big picture” of what God is doing in the world. When we are at home mothering our children, we are not sidelined from God’s building His Kingdom. We are on the front line, training little ones for His glory and becoming more like Jesus ourselves. It is kingdom work, for sure.
The “littles” require the same patience the Lord shows us, when we fall over and over into the same weaknesses and sins. Our children need us to mirror God’s mercy, His forbearance, and His gentle guidance into truth and obedience, line upon line, and precept upon precept. They need to be listened to, and they need a response delivered with a sweet spirit. They need to know they are valued as image bearers of God.
The Lord has taught me many lessons regarding disciplining children in light of the Gospel. First, I am responsible to train them in His ways before I punish them for disobedience. Second, I am to take my place at the foot of the cross with them in disciplining them. Even though I am in God-given authority over them, I am not to discipline them from a position above them but from the position of needing mercy along with them. Third, although I may need to correct them many times daily, the ethos or atmosphere of our home must be grace. Fourth, I would freely share with them, in age appropriate ways, my own walk with the Lord, including my struggles with sin, fear, unbelief, waiting on God to answer prayer, and more.