Fit to Burst: An interview with Rachel Jankovic
As a mother of six children (two of them twins), author Rachel Jakovic has much wisdom to offer her fellow moms. But it isn’t the commiserating stories or funny anecdotes that draw women to her books—its the down to earth, theologically deep, biblical encouragement she offers them. Recently, I (Jessalyn Hutto) had the privilege of asking Rachel a few practical questions on the topic of motherhood in light of her new book, Fit to Burst : Abundance, Mayhem, and the Joys of Motherhood.
In your book, Fit to Burst, you make it clear that our ability to obey God and love our families is a fruit of the gospel, yet you do not shy away from calling moms to actively pursue holiness. Why do you think it is so easy for moms to swing from on one side of the works-based righteousness/“let go and let God” pendulum to the other? How can moms passionately pursue excellence in their calling without leaving the gospel behind?
I see this as simply an issue of balance. Like so many things in life we tend to fall in one ditch or the other. So both keeping your house super clean and letting your house go could honor God, depending on the circumstance. And both could dishonor him, depending on the circumstance. Often times what we need to hear is not what we want to hear—because what we need to hear will make us more balanced, but it will also push against us and probably be a little uncomfortable.
As far as the gospel goes, it’s the drive. It is why we do everything. It isn’t like a statue that we look at, but more like the food that fuels us. We love God for he loved us first. When we want our hands to express our love for him, we are expressing his love for us. When we want the dinner on the table, the gifts under the tree, or the smiles on our faces to reflect our love for God, what they are really telling is his love for us. There is no threat that as we seek to honor God in our mundane work that it will in some way cover up the gospel. It is a way of declaring the gospel. The only threat here is that we leave off trying to honor God and get busy trying to impress one another, or earn our street cred as domestic superheroes.
How do you think the internet has positively and negatively affected modern motherhood? Do you have any warnings or encouragement for young moms as they discern how to make the best use of their time in this area?
I guess I would say that it has been a huge blessing in so many ways, but like everything it can be a stumbling block if you let it.
Things I love—being able to search for recipes, being able to get any knitting pattern I want, ordering things that I wouldn’t have normal access to, and keeping up with family and friends who are far away, as well as staying in touch with people who I see often in real life and seldom connect to.
Things that can cause you to stumble—looking at everyone’s life with gratitude except yours. Letting the filters of other people’s instagrams make you believe that they are living in some kind of paradise while you muddle around with crumbs on your feet. To whom much is given, much is required. If you have all kinds of social outlets available to you because of the internet, then God is requiring a lot of social wisdom from you. And that is something that requires a lot of discernment and self discipline—which isn’t easy, but it is good!
Being a mother is incredibly demanding, both physically and spiritually. How can moms put all they have into their children and still have something to give to their husbands? How do you balance motherhood and marriage?
I don’t feel like I do really balance motherhood and marriage—I guess because it is all just my life. Whenever we talk about balancing things we are talking like they are in opposition to one another—on different sides of the teeter totter. But with a husband and wife relationship we would be wrong. It is more like a merry go round of giving. The kids aren’t one of my jobs and Luke (my husband) another, with me standing in the middle trying to keep either from crashing to the ground. Luke and I together have children—and I spend my day on behalf of both of us dealing with them. He isn’t the extra kid who comes home at night and needs me. We are good friends—without seeing him I would have nothing to give to the kids. I understand the temptation to think that you don’t want to do anything for anyone else, but when a husband and wife fellowship together and spend time together, it should be a time of mutual giving and receiving. Much trouble can come from forgetting that you have been made one. His needs are your needs, and pouring yourself out for him fills you up. And the opposite is also true—needing him is filling him up. Wanting your husband’s input is giving to him. Needing his support and encouragement is a way to give.
The fifties housewife image we have of a woman greeting her husband with his slippers is more than a little impossible at times. Greet him with needing him, with loving him, and with wanting to give more than you have—not with a sense of foreboding that he may try to touch you at some point.
Practically speaking, my husband and I read books together sometimes—meaning we talk about them. Usually books related to work for him. We talk through how it applies to us, and we get a much fuller understanding of the work we are both doing through that. It is a great way to get on the same page about things, a way I can support him at work, and he can understand me at home.
Often young moms struggle to build genuine, sanctifying friendships with other mothers because their relationships are characterized by pride and comparison. Do you have any practical advice for women who long to have close friends, but can’t seem to let anyone in?
Honestly, I guess I’d just say wad up all your expectations and throw them out. You may be trying to build some kind of fantasy land of friendship that you only think other people have. Then, when you are done with that, look at the people who are near you that you could minister to. Sometimes one of our kids goes through a phase where they are getting their feelings hurt because other people aren’t playing with them. Usually we discover that they were not actually doing anything but standing around feeling sorry for themselves that no one was playing with them, and that was the problem. Stop imagining that friend that comes over to fold your laundry with a coffee for you and a kind word. Maybe organize something yourself, something that is not focused on you, but rather gives you a chance to get to know others.
If you enjoyed this interview, be sure to read Jessalyn Hutto’s review of Rachel’s book Fit to Burst here.
Jessalyn Hutto is a regular contributor to Credo Magazine. She is just an ordinary wife and mother who serves an extraordinary God. Her passion for theology led her to create the blog DesiringVirtue which encourages women to study, treasure, and apply the Word of God to their daily lives. She is blessed to be the wife of Richard Hutto and the mother of three little boys: Elliot, Hudson, and Owen. She is also a regular contributor to The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood’s women’s channel: Karis.