“The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.” (Tim Keller)

Praise.  God.  I am sinful and flawed, but loved and accepted.  Because of Jesus.

Let me press these simple, profound truths to my heart every day.  Let me press them against the hearts of my husband and children.  In my many roles, let me be a woman of one Message.

Generous motherhood.

April 2, 2014

(Thoughts from our mom’s group readings and discussions)

Motherhood is funny in some ways.  I’ve found that it simultaneously expands my heart and shrinks it.  It opens my perspective in some ways and shuts it in others.  At least, left to myself it does.  And as I continue through motherhood, I need to remember God’s generous heart and gospel love — not only to my child or my family but for others still, too.

In our mom’s group at church, we’ve been reading through Ed Welch’s book, Running Scared: Fear, Worry, and the God of Rest.  It’s been a nourishing, convicting read in this season.  This past week, we read about God’s generosity toward us, even while we distrust Him and hoard and claw for things for ourselves.  Ed Welch reminded us that we don’t have to live with a tight fist or I-need-to-watch-out-for-me-and-mine-because-no-one-else-will mentality because God deals generously with us.  Not that He gives us everything we want but He offers something — or rather Someone — better: Jesus.  The better Manna.

His plan is to liberate us from our defensive, hoarding, tight-fisted, miserly ways, and to teach us that when we have been given the kingdom — the kingdom! — stinginess is unnatural and unbecoming.  We might prefer a different strategy, but if God is molding us to be chips off the old block, His strategy makes sense.  It is exactly what we need, because need is to be what we were intended to be — to be like Him.

(Welch, pp. 133-134)

When we operate from that truth, we can open our hearts and our hands to others.

What does that have to do with motherhood?  In obvious ways, it makes me sacrificial toward my kiddo.  But as Ian grows, I see my heart shrivel in other ways.  Rather than becoming selfish for my child and hoarding for him, gospel love requires and enables me to open my heart to love and desire the best for other children, too.

I’ve found my selfishness manifest in wanting my kid to have the best and be the best.  But this isn’t gospel generosity.  Yes, I am primarily a steward of my own child, but God opens our hearts to steward our money, time, possessions, and gifts for others, too.  Sometimes maybe even at the expense of my child!  I realize there’s a danger in swinging too far to the other side and neglecting my child in so-called ministry and service acts, but of course I don’t mean this.  I mean that He calls us to stop being so shrivel-hearted that we never taste the joys and sorrows of others.  To stop being so myopic that we never rejoice in the successes of another child and feel their heartaches and failures, too.

I feel like motherhood is one area where it’s easy to justify selfishness on my child’s behalf.  “At least it’s not for me!” I think.

Oh, but isn’t it?  As I begin to view my child as an extension of myself and tie my successes and failures in with them (even my reputation as I think my child reflects on my parenting or my character), isn’t selfish mothering really just plain selfishness?

For me, it certainly is.  And may God cut off sin’s tentacle here, too.  Because only He can enable me to open my heart in any season.  To look beyond “me and mine.”  To see others.  To love them.  To pray for them.  To give to them.  To even think of them!  Even that is so hard sometimes as I pace circles around me and mine only.

He gave His only begotten son for us.  He adopted us into His family.  He opened his heart and gave lavishly to those who weren’t naturally His — namely, us.  So as part of His family, I now do this because it reflect my Father’s generous heart.  And His heart is for all children, not just mine!  I realize that’s obvious, but I guess I don’t always operate on the obvious.

And I can do this in little ways.  I can think of someone other than my own kid when I’m out shopping.  I can help another child “win.”  I can sometimes sacrifice nap schedules and choose to serve another rather than my child’s sleep and the clock.  Rather than hoarding my child’s time (as he grows older), I can release him for ministry.  Maybe one day I can release him for mission work that will take him far away from home (not easy!).  I can rather give of me and mine for the betterment of others.  By God’s grace.  Because this points beyond the natural to a supernatural love.

It points away from me and mine; it points to God and His.  Which is infinitely better.  For all of us.

God, open this selfish mother’s heart.  That my heart and hands would stretch beyond my little world and see Your kingdom’s priorities in this world.  Give me a heart that advocates children other than my own.  Give me a heart that declares, “All is Yours!  All is for You!”

Part of the 30 day challenge series

Ian, this isn’t romantic at all.  The short answer to the question is: I knew your dad was “the one” when we said I do on our wedding day.

I didn’t feel free to say he was “the one” — mine — until then.  I hoped it, I wished it, but I didn’t know with any certainty until then.

Your appa and I both tiptoed into love.  He’s naturally cautious and deliberate in his decisions.  I’m usually more headlong, but I was still reeling from family pain and didn’t want to open my heart to be hurt anymore.  I didn’t want to risk loss anymore.  I really wrestled with the idea of gospel vulnerability during those months.  What am I afraid of?  I belong to Christ.  My security is in Him.  The worst assessment anyone can make of me, my sin, and my baggage has been made on the cross.  All I have is Christ.  What do I fear?

But appa hung in there with me.  We had no cloud nines to float on, only rock solid gospel to walk on.  And it was enough.  It still is. :]

It’ll be Ian’s first Christmas.  When I look at him, I understand a little more of the cost of Jesus’ incarnation.  Mostly because I’ve never spent so much time with an infant before.  My omnipotent God condescended to become someone’s completely helpless and needy, kissable baby.  He bowed His head and came.  Not just as a man.  Not just as a grown, fully competent man of trade, though that would have been humiliating enough for the Son who simply spoke the universe into existence.  But He came as a baby who had to nurse at the breast of a fumbling first time mom.  And I can’t wrap my mind around it.  The nearness of it.

But other thoughts come knocking this Christmas, too.  They aren’t completely unrelated.

In this season at least — and I don’t know, maybe for the rest of his life — Ian won’t know the fullness of my side of the family.  At least not all at once.  He can’t pick up on everything yet of course, but he’ll experience it by the things he doesn’t experience.  The loved ones he doesn’t get to interact with as much, his family he won’t grow to know as well, just because it’s harder to foster relationships with everyone when each fractured piece has to be cherished separately.  And because of our limited nature, some pieces will be neglected.  Some loved ones will be strangers to him.  And I grieve over this.  Sometimes bitterly.  My son won’t know the fullness and richness that is my side of the family.  At least not as continuously and intimately as I’d known it in my childhood.  (I know this is extremely common.  I know it could be worse.  But common never eases the pain, does it?)  This is not my first fractured Christmas.  It hurt as a daughter.  It hurt as a wife.  But ah — it hurts in a different way as a mother.  I don’t mean Christmas holds no joy.  Not at all.  But it’s a joy mingled with pain.  And I think that’s okay — at least when I consider Christmas in its original glory and un-glory.  Stripped down to a manger, but one containing no one less than the Lamb of God.

So last night before bed, I jotted everything I wanted to remember and tell myself as long as this season of brokenness lasts.  The tone may come across strong.  I really needed “endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” kind of language last night.  Nothing spineless would do against “Apollyon” and Giant Despair.  So in raw form, and in the order they came to mind:

Don’t become bitter.  Who are you to hold a charge against anyone?  You are no better.  The gospel says you are no better.

Adjust your expectations.  They are not Jesus.  You are not Jesus.  That’s why He came.  We all fall short.

Don’t become bitter.  This is worth repeating twice.

Pray.

Our earthly families aren’t the end-all be-all.  They point to a greater, more eternal reality.

God is sovereign.  You weren’t meant for the next home over. He placed you in your family with precision.  Don’t waste it.

Your family doesn’t cause you to sin.  They can tempt you to sin, but sin is always of personal volition.

May it never be that you echo Adam and accuse God with, “…the woman You gave me” — or rather, “the family You gave me.”

Your family is not beyond hope.  That’s why Christmas happened.  Christmas didn’t come for those who are whole — or who look whole or think they are whole.  It came for the diseased and broken.

We don’t celebrate Christmas because our family is together and happy.  We don’t celebrate Christmas for any other earthly reason than this: Jesus entered our world to rescue us from the power and penalty and pervasiveness of sin.

The goal is God’s glory.  Don’t idolize the image of a perfect family.  Is a stable family a blessing?  Yes.  But do not bow to it.

All families are broken in some way — at least on this side of eternity.  You cannot escape heartache or grief or brokenness in any relationship, even as a hermit.  Where memories might cease to assault you, the absence of relationship will takes its place.  Only your relationship with God is safe — and really, only on His part, not yours.  Thank God He is faithful and able to make us faithful to the end.

It’s better to be broken than hardened.  It’s better to be broken than hardened.  It’s better to be broken than hardened.

Don’t forget your church family.  Ask for prayer.  Embrace their encouragement and exhortation.  Love them well.  Remember they’re broken people being sanctified, too.

Love your family, period.  Remember the costly manner in which Jesus laid down His life and by His grace, do the same.  But remember this key difference between you and Jesus in this: He was better than than those for whom He laid down His life.  You are not.

No matter how wearying and how long the labor, or whatever the results or lack thereof, you are called to be a peacemaker.  Peacemaking is dirty work, and you are completely unqualified except in Christ.  Don’t grow weary of doing good.  The labor is ours, the fruit is God’s to give.

Look brokenness in the face.  Don’t pretend it away.  And then tell brokenness to look Jesus in the face.  See who wins.

I need to extend the gospel to my son.  I can’t just love on him when he’s calm and cute … and then not love on him when he’s crying … and still cute (haha).  They say around this time for the next few weeks (or more?) is baby’s fussiest time and then it tapers out.  He’s definitely fussier and crying a lot more than when he was weeks younger, but he’s also becoming more alert.  More smiley.  Noticing the world better around him.  It’s an exciting stage, too, though it comes with his many tears … and a new soundtrack to my life, though not constant thankfully. :]

And was encouraged by this post, Mothers Make Ministers, that another mama shared yesterday on a forum I’m part of.  Two excerpts below:

Consecrate your children, not to make fortunes, but to make disciples. Then even if they’re never ordained as ministers, they will be promoters of Christ in whatever sphere of life they are occupied …

And the greatness of Christian parenting does not come from the sense of personal satisfaction in your child’s maturation nor even the priceless delights – like spontaneous hugs and unsolicited “Daddy, I wuv you” from your daughter (one of my personal favorites). Rather, our greatest reward as Christian parents lay in the possibility that we may actually be raising a fervent promoter of Jesus’s Kingdom.

Big picture, big picture, big picture … though the little picture as of now gets cuter to me on a daily basis.  :]

22 days.

June 5, 2013

Ian is just over 3 weeks old today.  Two quick thoughts on my mind today as he’s currently napping and may wake up soon:

1. Motherhood is gospel application.  I read this article this morning, and I’m clinging to the godly, motherly wisdom in it.

“… so we take what we believe about God and the gospel and faith and life, and we apply it in the places that seem too little for it … This is a time to take the grace that God has extended to you, and feed your children with it. Apply what you believe about God’s mercy and kindness and long suffering towards us, and pour it out to them — in a form they can believe in. Unrest like this is just like a baby crying for a bottle — only what they need is spiritual milk. They need you to feed them, not with a lecture, but with application … Of course, this side of heaven we will not do perfectly. Harsh words will be spoken, patience will wear thin. Frazzled mothers will act frazzled. And when this happens, our own sinfulness does not detract from the power of the gospel, it illustrates why we need it. Do not use your own mistakes as an excuse to wallow about what a bad mother you are. Repent, seek forgiveness, get it right, and move on. Believe. Be forgiven. Extend that forgiveness, that belief, that joy, to your children.”

2. I’m so grateful for JE.  When I forget the gospel during these early days of mothering, he’s there to remind me.  Not always with words.  Sometimes there isn’t time anymore to sit down, talk things out, speak truth to each other, and to extend gospel grace to each other through words.  But fatherhood and being a husband is gospel application, too.  Especially when your wife is frazzled.  And falls into the easy myopia of caring for a newborn — feed, clean, diaper change, lull to sleep, put back to sleep, soothe, diaper change again, hungry already?!, is this a growth spurt?, please sleep!,  awake already?!, feed, repeat, repeat, repeat.  And when your wife starts to really believe that feeding and sleeping are the be-all and end-all of life.  When she is cranky.  When she fails.  When she isn’t coherent enough to carry a conversation.  At times like that, he extends the gospel to me through his actions.  Love covering a multitude of sins.  Overlooking.  Giving a kiss instead returning evil for evil.  Gentle reminders.  An undeserved embrace or word of encouragement.

And in those moments, I’m reminded of the gospel.  He didn’t have to say anything.  Sometimes, I do need to hear it.  But sometimes, the application is enough to remind me.  And I just look at him with tears rolling down my face for the hundredth time.  Probably a mix of postpartum hormonal tears and just genuine gratitude, haha.  But gratitude is there.  For Christ in my husband.

photo

Baby Ian was born just 12 days ago, and the past 12 days have been a crash course in taking care of him.  The day after his birth, I kept wondering when his real parents would come to pick him up because it still seemed so surreal.  12 days later, I’m slowly adjusting but it still seems surreal.  That’s my son.  Not my friend’s baby, not my little cousin.  My son.

That’s … crazy.

But we’re slowly, slowly learning to be parents.  Our hospital has a great follow-up support system, and I’ve had follow-up visits and called for consulting several times already.  Our lactation consultant told me at two different times, “Mommy, stop being so analytical!  Just go with your intuition.  He’s your son.”  And I didn’t say it to her, but I thought to myself, “Intuition?  What intuition?  Can’t you just give me a manual?  Like, if X happens, do Y.”  But no, no manual.  Every baby is different, they say.  And Google gives me lots of differing philosophies from anything from sleep to feed.

Today on day 12, I think I have a rough idea of what to do with his physical needs — at least for now before his next milestone or growth spurt, after which I’ll have to learn even more — but I’m still needy when it comes to really loving him sacrificially.  No credit to my flesh, sacrifice still doesn’t come as naturally or as easily as I thought it would.  I thought the “new mother” euphoria would be sufficient to fuel me through sleepless nights, the early frustrations of nursing (major learning curve here), and the day by day recovery from labor.  But even the natural love of a mother doesn’t overcome the flesh so easily.  I’ve had to really spend time praying that the fruit of the Spirit, which include love and patience and gentleness, would grow in my heart in spite of fatigue, physical pain, and plain not-knowing-what-to-do.

I’m so thankful for the gospel of grace in those moments.  I’m not and will never be the perfect mother.  I won’t do everything right — in heart or in deed — every time.  But Christ’s gospel already tells me that.  No surprise.  I’m not great or a “natural.”  I’m a sinner.  And there is a Savior.  For our family’s sake, for precious little Ian’s sake, I’m so grateful.  When I go astray, the blessing of repentance is always available to me through Christ.

In this season, dying to myself and living to Christ has a very tangible place for application.  It’s in the “washing of feet,” so to speak, of caring for a newborn.  Today, I’m called to adorn the gospel by acts of sacrificial service, in tenderly loving a little one who is totally dependent on me and can’t even smile back or say “thank you” yet (haha).  I can’t tell him the gospel in such a way that he understands yet, but I can demonstrate it to him through Christ who strengthens me.

God’s work in my heart doesn’t stop with the advent of a baby.  He isn’t shocked that Christlike love in me isn’t perfected upon the start of motherhood.  This is a seamless continuation of His sanctifying work in me.  To His glory.  And speaking of the gospel alone doesn’t prove I believe it.  I must live the gospel.  Here.  Now.  With every diaper change.  With trying to discern baby’s cries and not knowing what they mean.  With yet another marathon nursing session.  Even with every melt of my heart.  Even with every delightful moment when we gush about how precious he is.  Even when I can’t stop kissing his sweet little face.

Day by day, whether I feel like I know nothing or feel like “I got this,” the Lord must be my confidence.  Not Moms on Call.  Not Babywise.  Not Ferber.  Not Kellymom.  Not my copious notes from any other source.  Not my non-existent intuition (hehe) or my non-existent super-loving-mom powers that I thought would be given to me after Ian’s birth.  Only Jesus.

Only, sufficiently Jesus.

I can rest in that. :]