Liz Wann: The End of Me
About the Guest
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Liz WannLiz Wann lives in West Philadelphia with her husband Josh and their three children. She is a regular contributor to desiringGod.org, Revive Our Hearts, and ERLC.com. She is also editor-in-chief at Morning by Morning. She can be found online at LizWann.com.
Is motherhood stripping you clean? Author Liz Wann knows the pain of reaching limits. Here’s how being a mom both tears us down & rebuilds us like Jesus.
Liz Wann: The End of Me
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Ann: Okay; the hardest years of a mom’s life—ready?—go!
Dave: You’re asking me?!
Dave: I’m not a mom.
Ann: You’ve lived with me.
Dave: The hardest years?
Dave: I’d say from birth to age 25. [Laughter]
Ann: Why do you say that?
Dave: I’m kidding.
Ann: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.
Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on our FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today!
Dave: You’re the expert—I’m just the dad—from birth to age three or maybe four.
Ann: Yes, I think—
Dave: You know diapers, up at night, nursing.
Ann: For me, personally, it was just like such a change and culture shock—yes—to get used to that and to kind of settle into that role of being a mom was hard. And you’re exhausted—like our kids didn’t sleep well; it was probably my fault—and I was exhausted all the time. I was disappointed in myself as a mom; I was disappointed in our marriage.
Dave: I was going to say, “You were disappointed in me.” I often heard—I got to live life because I’m at work, and I’m having lunch with people—and you’re like, “When is the last time I had lunch with an adult?”
Dave: So why are we talking about this?
Ann: Well, we’re talking about this today because we have Liz Wann with us in the studio.
Liz, welcome to FamilyLife Today.
Liz: Hi; thank you.
Ann: I’m excited to have you with us. You’ve written a book called The End of Me, which every mom, who just heard that title, she is like, “Yes!”—
Dave: Yes, that’s motherhood.
Liz: —the end of me.
Ann: The subtitle is Finding Resurrection Life in the Daily Sacrifices of Motherhood. That really does kind of describe where we are going today.
Liz is a wife; she lives in Philly with her three kids.
Dave: Now, how old are your kids?
Liz: Nine, seven, and three.
Dave: Two boys and a daughter.
Liz: Yes; yes.
Dave: Nine, seven, three: so you’ve lived through, and are living through, what we just talked about.
Liz: Exactly; yes.
Dave: Is that what The End of Me is all about?
Liz: Yes, it is—especially the little years—I’ve heard moms of teenagers can still relate, but—
Dave: Yes; so talk about when you became a mom. Was it super hard? I mean, was it a surprise?
Liz: Yes; definitely. Even just the birth situation—I had all these ideas in my head—of like my plans.
Ann: Oh, you had your birth plan all in place?
Liz: Yes; yes. I had no idea what would really happen. [Laughter]
Dave: It did not go the way you planned?
Liz: It did not go as planned; yes.
Ann: So it started with the reality of childbirth?
Liz: Yes, that first: “Oh, this isn’t how I wanted it to be or I imagined.” I mean, I did have a slightly traumatic birth—where it just went so, so long, and pushing—and delivery for an hour and a half. There was a little bit of trauma in there as well; my son had to be taken to the NICU.
Ann: You start out with trauma;—
Ann: —and you start out with fear. You haven’t even met this baby. You’re birthing them, and already—I remember thinking, “I love this baby already—I haven’t even met him—yet, I’m so afraid for him already.”
Ann: That’s traumatic as a mom.
Liz: Yes; definitely; yes.
Then, even with going home, I remember having feelings of: “This isn’t what I expected either.” It’s just constant crying in the middle of the night. Even with feeding him, he still wouldn’t go back to sleep, like: “This is not what I expected,”—this just constant, non-stop giving up of myself and laying myself down.
Just/I even expected my feelings to be different. My hormones were out of whack, and I had some depression. I did not expect that; nobody had warned me about that—so just really being surprised by that—and just assuming that, as a mother, you always have these warm, nurturing feelings; you know? And just to feel like the opposite of that, just was very shocking to me.
Ann: You even shared how it took you a while for feelings to really come. Didn’t you say you felt a little numb even?
Liz: Yes, a little disconnected—like I remember, when he was in the NICU, wanting to go to him—this instinct of: “He’s my child; I love him; I want to go to him.” But even getting back home, just feeling a little disconnected. I had heard about, when the baby comes out, like there is this instant bond that you feel. I did have that with my other two. With the first—because of what happened with the labor and delivery; him being taken to the NICU—it just didn’t really happen. Hearing stories like that—that was my expectation—and then not to have that felt like something was wrong/maybe wrong with me.
Ann: Oh, I think that’s it—like you just nailed it—you went into: “Something is wrong”; “But maybe, something is wrong with me.”
Ann: Do you think a lot of moms can face that?
Liz: Oh, yes; definitely, like: “I’m a failure,” or “I’m not a good enough mom.” So just realizing that’s your hormones—at least, with that situation—you know: “That’s just your body. It’s not all happiness all the time in parenting and motherhood”; you know? [Laughter]
Liz: It’s really hard; yes.
Dave: So what did you do with that?—that feeling of: “I feel a little detached,” “I feel like something is wrong with me,”—with baby number one. How did you deal?
Liz: I just remember—you know, talking to people about it helped, and not keeping it to myself—and telling people, like family—you know, my husband and friends—like, “This is how I feel…” I think that helped; and just even telling God, “This is how I feel…”
I remember, in the middle of the night, just feeling so spent, and like rocking my son to sleep; but I would get out my phone and play hymns for him, but also for me, and read my Bible on my phone. I just remember praying, like, “Lord, I’m just so needy. I never felt this needy before. Please just help me; meet me here.”
Ann: You even say you weren’t who you thought you were. You say, “I wasn’t who I thought I was”; and I remember having that exact same thought, like: “I am way more impatient,” or “I’m way more hard on myself than I thought that I would be, thinking, ‘I can’t get this baby to go to sleep,’”—especially today, on any kind of social media platform, you’re seeing every mother in the world has gotten her child to go to sleep through the night—you know?—at two months old [Laughter]; and yours is still up every two hours. You think, “What is wrong with me?”
As moms, I think we can all go into this place—I remember thinking, “I have never been so angry in my entire life!” I didn’t think this was even inside of me, so I would blame Dave for that, or I’d blame my kids for that, or I’d blame the circumstances for that. Yet, I’d feel like God was trying to speak to me through some of those insecurities. Have you felt that?
Liz: Oh, yes; definitely; yes. [Laughter]
Ann: What did that look like for you when you’d say, “I don’t…”—you didn’t even recognize who you were?
Liz: Yes; I mean, patience is a big one. I talk to a lot of moms who feel the same way. I was so surprised at how impatient I was. [Laughter] I used to think: “Oh, I’m a very patient person,” or “I don’t really have an anger problem.” [Laughter] Then, yes, having children, I’m like, “Okay; I’m angry and impatient. This is surprising how much it can be like that.” I totally relate to feeling like this is not who I thought I was, and it just kind of comes out of you.
Dave: It doesn’t go away. You think: “Well, it’s going to go away in a week,” or “…maybe a day,” or “…at the most, a couple of weeks,”—but with a child—and again, I’m just the dad here, listening to two moms talking about it—but that’s one of the hardest things about it; right? It just keeps—and then they don’t sleep the next night, and he doesn’t sleep the next night—how do you deal when it isn’t a day or a week?—it is months; right?—because—
Liz: Long term; yes.
Dave: —yours went on for—
Ann: Let’s just say—
Dave: —a while.
Ann: —it can be years.
Liz: Yes; because even after the sleeping stuff, then it’s behavior issues as they are toddlers and get older. Then it is another thing that you can be impatient with.
Ann: Yes, when they start hitting each other; yes.
Liz: Exactly. [Laughter]
Dave: I’ve got to ask this—I’ve got two moms sitting here—“What do you say to the guys?—what do you say to us husbands? What do we do? How do we help?—
Ann: Oh, when we are sad and mad?
Dave: —“when we are watching our wives go through this.”
Because I watched Ann go through this. She goes from my wife, who is amazing, and now we’re both—
Ann: Oh, thanks, hon—to what? [Laughter]
Dave: —to we’re so excited to have our firstborn—and it’s like what you just said, Liz—it’s like, “Wow! This isn’t what we thought.” He ends up in NICU; it’s traumatic. Then, when we do get him home, it’s just hard; and he is not sleeping.
In some ways—and again, I can’t say I am speaking for every husband—but it’s, in some ways, our wonderful life and wife went to: “I lost her.” She has sort of lost herself, because she is struggling apart from me. Now, we’re struggling as new parents. In some ways, as a guy, I’m feeling like, “This is my fault.” And also, I’m like, “I don’t know how to help.”
So what would you say? I’ve got two wives here/two moms: “What would you say to us guys? How do we help? What do we do?”
Liz: I think the first thing is to listen—yes, is the most important thing—is to draw your wife out and find out what is going on with her, and just be a listening ear, and saying: “I understand,” or “I know that has to be hard,” and being open to the fact that there are different facets of her. Listening is the most important thing.
Dave: So you’re saying listening, and probably not doing what I did,—
Liz: —problem solving.
Dave: —like, “Okay, honey; how about you do this?”
Ann: —or saying, “How long do you think you’ll be like this?” [Laughter]
Dave: I was just hoping for the new—
Ann: You totally asked me that one time:—
Ann: —“How long do you think you’ll be like this?”
Dave: Did you have to bring it up? [Laughter]
Yes; so listen—that’s huge—and again, when you say, “Listen,” you mean listen—I mean, like, “Don’t fix it; don’t solve it.—
Dave: —“say, ‘Man, that is hard.’”
Dave: And then what? Is that it?
Liz: And ask questions to understand more of what she’s going through; yes.
Ann: I think, too, to be in it with us—not only in listening—but like serving, like: “What can I do?” “How can I help tonight?” “Do you want me to get dinner tonight? Do you want me to pick up dinner tonight?” It takes some of that burden off of us; because I think we feel like, as moms, we need to do everything. As working moms go back to work, they are feeling like they are failing everyone; so just to encourage them of saying, “I see what you are doing. This has got to be really hard.” Then give her that space to just talk or to vent, without the fixing part, I think is huge.
Liz, I love that you used John 12. That verse says, “Truly”—this is Jesus speaking—“I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit [emphasis added].” What does that verse have to do with motherhood?
Liz: Yes; at least, in my experience—I think most moms’ experience—there is this daily dying that you feel like is happening. That’s like that grain of wheat going and being buried; it does have this feeling of you are dying to yourself; you know?—you are putting yourself in the ground here.
It’s bearing fruit in the fact that you’re going to Christ—and He is redeeming that; He is redeeming that death—and He is raising it up to new life in Him. That could just look like different, you know, fruit/good fruit coming out. My children, I feel like—even though I said I am impatient—they’ve definitely/God has used them to build more patience in me. The death of that has produced good fruit in my heart, resurrection fruit.
Dave: How long did it take for either one of you to say, “I’m getting to the point where I’m getting that perspective”? It is a journey to get to the place, where you’re able to say—like Ann said earlier—you get to a place, where you find that: “Jesus is right here, and He is developing me as a mom.” How long did it take to get there?
Ann: I don’t know if I can give a date as much as just saying—I can remember crying out to Him—and Liz, as I’ve been reading what you’ve written, you did the same thing. I think that is a great space and a great place for every mom to get to, where: “Jesus, I can’t do this, and I need You.” Even in those times, where you’re nursing a baby in the middle of the night, or you’re feeding a child, or you are up with a sick child—I know it is really easy now for moms just to be scrolling on their phones; you know?—as you are up feeding babies; but there is something about the stillness of the night or being alone of connecting with God.
For me, this became this incredibly holy time of me venting and telling Jesus all my fears, my hopes, my dreams, my disappointment in myself, and my need for Him. It became like a church service in the middle of the night. I don’t think I could have done it without that. It was that dying piece of me that: “I feel like I’ve lost the person I used to be.” I think there was a part of Him that was saying, “And, Ann, I have so much more for you because I love you and I am changing you.”
I felt like it was torture; and I called it “the desert years”; I mean: “I’m here in the desert, Jesus. Do You see me? I’m all alone. I don’t have any water.” He says, “I am your water. I’ll bring you springs of living water.”
Talk about that for you—because you went into it a little bit—like in the middle of the night you would go there, and you would play hymns.
Liz: For me, the process was: “Now, if this is how God is using motherhood to help me to die to myself/die to sin and develop good fruit in me, I can either fight that, or I can submit to it.” I think it was—even realizing that I can submit to this, and I can submit to the tool of sanctification through motherhood—and what God is/how He is using it to work these things in me. I think it was kind of an issue of: “Do I fight it?” or “Do I submit to it?”
Ann: How do you submit to it? What does that look like?
Liz: Yes; ooh, that’s a good one. [Laughter] For me, it was more just seeing it—I think is the key—to see, “Okay, I have an issue here; I’m impatient.” Sometimes, you just don’t see it; you’re always reacting. Instead, to stop, and think, and see it; and then bring it to the Lord, and confess it to Him, and say, “I need help,” and just keep doing that.
I’ve noticed that—I mean, I’m still impatient; but I have noticed some growth—you know, where I am like, “Okay, I was a little more patient there than I was, I think, a few years ago.” So yes, I think just seeing it, owning it, and confessing it, and asking for help.
Dave: It’s interesting, hearing you talk. It’s like, “I’m a dad, but it is the same thing.
Dave: “I have to come to the end of me,—
Dave: —“the title of your book, which is that death.”
There is also something in all of us that says, “I don’t want to die! That’s the last thing…” You know, it’s like: “We’re supposed to embrace our death.” “I don’t want to,”; we’re doing that as a sacrifice unto the Lord for our child.
How do you embrace that concept of getting to the end of me? I mean it’s a beautiful book title; but it’s like, “Uh-uh. I’m—no, no, no, anything but the end of me. Maybe, three-quarters there; but I’m not going all the way to the end of me”; but that’s sort of the concept; right? That’s what God wants, and that’s what motherhood did for you?
Liz: Yes; I think, again, to go back to what I was like—or what I thought of myself before motherhood—was I thought I was a pretty strong person. I think, as the years went on, I’m like, “Okay, I’m kind of weak.” [Laughter] I’m like, “I’m pretty weak; and I’m very, very human,”—even not just be sin—but just that I’m human. I’m limited; I’m finite—I’m not God—I’m not all-powerful; I’m not in control. I think I came to a head with that, pretty early on, just reckoning with my humanity of—just like you even said—we want to do it all; we feel like we have to do it all. Just even realizing: “I can’t do it all, and I need to lay it down.”
I realized that that is not what I’m called to—[to do it all]—I’m limited and finite, and to embrace that. I think coming to the end of myself was just embracing my humanity, and my weakness, and my need for the Lord. That actually is the place that He wants us to come to, that He has designed for us to be, because that is how He made us: to need Him!
Ann: That’s beautiful.
Ann: I think I was fighting it for so long when I’m now understanding, “Oh, that’s one of the greatest gifts God gave me,” because I would have thought: “Hey, I’m a hard worker. I can get this; I can get this stuff done. I’m going to nail this thing.” I came to the point, that I thought, “I’ve got nothing; I’ve got nothing left. I have nothing to offer.”
I know that sounds like a bad place; but when I got to that place, that’s when I said, “But Jesus, You are all things, and You are not surprised where I am, and You can take this,”—it’s kind of that death—“I lay my life down before You”—like Romans 12:1-2—‘…as a living sacrifice.’” It’s that daily surrender; that then, something beautiful results of our dependence on Him.
I’ve said that a lot of times with moms—and dads too—there is such a self-sacrifice. I think we moms, we never lay it down, where men may be a little bit more compartmentalize with it; but we moms carry it continually. So there is a beauty to being able to let Jesus carry it for us—that lays down our will, our pride, all the arrogance—I had so much arrogance, thinking, “I’m going to nail this thing! I’m going to be amazing,”—[however, resulting] like, “I’m horrible.” There is a beautiful part of that.
Dave: Well, talk about this—you mentioned it quite often in your book—the idea of/it was in the verse you shared—when you die, new life springs—so you talk about resurrection life of Christ being real to you as a mom; but it doesn’t come until you get the end of me. So talk about that. What’s the hope in the resurrection life? How does that function?
Shelby: You’re listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Liz Wann on FamilyLife Today. We’re going to hear her response in just a minute; but first, as you can imagine, we’ve had to make some tough choices, again, this year as many of us have. We are hoping that, through the generosity of people just like you, we can continue to reach your home and all the homes that need help and hope for the relationships that matter most. Now, this is an especially unique and critical time of year to donate; because we’ve had some friends of the ministry come alongside us and offer to double every donation we receive, for 12 months, up to $300,000, when you become a monthly Partner right now. That means, if you give $25 a month, the impact is actually $50 a month.
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Alright; now, back to Dave and Ann with Liz Wann and how the hope of Christ’s resurrection really is good news for our day-to-day lives.
Dave: What’s the hope in the resurrection life? How does that function?
Liz: Just looking to Him as your source and your strength. And Paul even talks about—and I use this verse a lot in the book—to boast in your weaknesses.
Liz: Just even doing that is that work of resurrection life in your heart—of coming to the place where you can even boast in your weaknesses and not having all those plates spinning and thinking you’ve got it all going together—but realizing you can drop some of those plates, and everything is going to be okay. It’s an act of humility even to say: “I can’t do it all,” and “I can’t have all those plates spinning, and that’s okay. God’s still in control.” It’s humility. It’s one of the greatest Christian virtues—is humility—so that’s definitely the resurrection life in your heart.
Ann: I’m thinking of all the moms listening—no matter how old your kids are: whether they are babies, whether they are teenagers, whether they are grown and gone—I think we, as moms, carry this weight of wanting our kids to be happy/wanting them to know Jesus; and we carry it all the time. I know, even with my kids grown, I still wake up in the middle of the night, worried, like, “What if this happens?”
Dave: I don’t.
Ann: I know you don’t! [Laughter] I wake up, and I pray for them; but there is something like, “Oh!” I would encourage you to know that Jesus loves you; He knows your kids. He sees you, as a woman; and He is wanting to walk beside you, love you, comfort you, encourage you. I think, the closer we draw to Him, the more He changes us.
Dave: I think every mom needs to hear that because that’s—like you said/you both said it—you guys never let go of your kids. It’s a beautiful thing, but you need to know Jesus has you.
Shelby: That’s Dave and Ann Wilson with Liz Wann on FamilyLife Today. You can get her book, The End of Me, at FamilyLifeToday.com or by calling 1-800-358-6329; that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
If you know of anyone who needs to hear today’s message, you can share it from wherever you get your podcasts. While you are there, it would really help to get the word out about FamilyLife Today if you’d rate and review us.
Now, coming up tomorrow, Dave and Ann will be talking again with Liz Wann about how, sometimes when you are new mom, all you want is a break and some rest; but how that can make you feel guilty for wanting to get away from your baby. That’s coming up tomorrow. We hope you can join us.
On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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