As I mentioned yesterday, last weekend I helped host a baby shower for my sister-in-law. At the shower, I gave the devotion. I kept thinking we should trade me out for someone more experienced and wise than me - an aunt or grandma or well, anyone who's ever raised a child more than 17 months like little ol' me. I was really nervous. What could I have to say that would be helpful to a new mom? I'm floundering just as much, if not more, than she is! I needed to hear a devotion from a wise mother just as much as she did!
But as I prayed about it and asked God to enlighten me with just a teeny, tiny bit of wisdom to share, I kept feeling like maybe it was a good thing that I could share. I remember - very well - where she's at. I remember the research for what labor and delivery would be like, the anxiety of what color of stroller to select, the feeling that every single decision I made was the-most-important-one-I've-ever-made!
I remember worrying about the big things and worrying just as much about the small things. The fears that it would be harder than anyone admits and the delusions that things would be easier than people say ... I remember it well.
And I remember all the advice. Both unasked for and sought out. It comes at you a mile a minute when you're pregnant, then a mile a second when you actually hold that baby in your arms. You want to hear it. Yet you want to do it on your own. You're torn. Overwhelmed. Struggling to find the right answer for you and your baby, but it feels impossible because everything is flashy, and loud, and bright, begging you to choose it and it's all just plain confusing.
Yet over and over again in motherhood, God has brought Romans 12:2 to my mind. "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."
Truth for the new mother.
I honestly don't consider myself a wise person. A person who has a deep and clear understanding of the bible, easily drawing out truths from the text. Someone who can read a chapter and actually have a lot to say about it. Or be able to transform a single verse into seven paragraphs of thought, lessons, challenges and encouragements. I have friends and family that are like that, and honestly, I envy them.
I knew I could only speak from my limited experience. And so my goal wasn't to rock her world with five brand new truths that fit her next role as a mother, it was to remind her of the one truth she already knows, but is so easy to forget in this stage of life. I wanted to be real with her. To identify with what's happening to her now, and what will happen to her later, and remind her of one simple truth through it all that provides direction and certainty in a role that can easily make a person feel lost and unsure: To test everything against God's word.
And so laid the foundation for the devotion.
And really, it's my prayer for all mothers - especially those of you who are currently pregnant with your first, or trudging through the murky waters of the newborn stage. While this applies at all stages of life - children or not - I think it's an especially important reminder when you're in those stages. So, I've edited my "speech" up a bit to be more generic, to apply to all of you.
It likely won't blow your mind or totally transform your thinking, but I hope it will remind you of why we're doing this motherhood thing and what really matters when it's all said and done.
ps. It is meant to be spoken aloud, so the flow may be a bit off as you read it to yourself.
I keep thinking about how the instant a new mom becomes pregnant, she is inundated with unsolicited advice. And on top of it all, she's also seeking it out, reading books, blogs and forums on where to get the best baby gear deals, how to prepare for nursing, labor relaxation techniques - you name it, most first time moms have researched it.
And while it may feel like you're researching a lot now, after the baby comes, you'll still be seeking out advice - sleep training solutions, how to get rid of diaper rash, and introduce first foods. You'll worry and question and wonder and research until you think you've reached the end of the internet and all the advice available, but there's more. There's always more.
The baby experts - the internet, blogs and books will shout at you, "Do it my way! This is the best way! Only 27 steps to get an angel baby! Here's how to have the perfect child!" And even more dangerous, "Here's how to be the perfect mom!"
But today I want to encourage you: Do not listen to them. Do not be caught up in their lies. Romans 12:2 says, "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."
Because the thing is - contrary to what the world will tell you, it doesn't matter in the end if you breastfeed or formula feed, if you sleep train or co-sleep, if you use organic or processed foods. And I know deep down you know that. Those things will fade and die as the new fad comes in, and will not affect who your child becomes. And as you face questions and transition, I pray that you will do what Romans says, to test everything, sifting through the world's shouts to discern what is good, acceptable, and perfect. What is the will of God. Because the things you say and the way you spend your time as this baby's mother will show them what you value and as Romans says, what is on your mind, and as Psalms says, what is in your heart.
When that baby comes, I guarantee, even with the hours of research and preparation under your belt, very quickly, you will feel inadequate, unqualified and unprepared. You will want to run to the flashy book covers, the 10-step solutions, the easy promises. And while I'll be the first to admit - a 10-step solution can actually be very helpful in getting your kid to sleep through the night - that is not what matters.
What matters is another book: The Bible. What matters is that you give your child Jesus. That you love them well. That you instruct their heart. That you are present. That you overwhelm them daily with the grace of God. That you teach them about Job's suffering, Sarah's laughter, Paul's zeal, Ruth's loyalty and Peter's bravery.
That you teach them to love what God loves and to hate what God hates.
When you're in the trenches - when you have questions about when to introduce the pacifier or whether or not to get scented or unscented wipes - though they are real things that need to be dealt with, and at the moment feel so very pressing - the deeper question you should be asking yourself is, "How am I showing my child God's grace? What will they learn from me? At the end of each day - what will they say their mommy valued?"
Although your child's faith is ultimately out of your hands, you will have one of the biggest influences on their heart. As that verse in Romans says, TEST EVERYTHING. And how do you test everything? Through renewing your mind by spending daily time with Jesus. Memorizing scripture, reading the word and laying raw the multitude of worries, fears and anxieties you will have as a mother at his feet. Through doing these things you will be able to discern what is worth it and what is not - you will have the ability to do what is good, and acceptable and perfect for your child.
The shouts of the world will quickly fade, and the still, small voice of Jesus whispering to you will soon be all you can hear.
I'm only 17 months into this motherhood gig, and already I can tell you that parenting well and with intention is not easy. I know it will take years of consistency, thoughtfulness and intentionality to nurture and grow a soul that will someday, hopefully, love and follow Jesus.
My prayer is that your child's story follows the narrow path. That they would grow up to not only know their Bible, but to love it as an old friend. That they wouldn't just know how to recite a memory verse, but that its truth would root deep down in their heart, beating life into them right along with it. That they would not only know the old hymns, but that their meanings would make their wavering soul steady in the midst of trial.
And you as the mother, because of God's grace, you will have influence over this. My prayer is that your child would say their mother raised them with grace, forgiveness and purpose. That she was present. That she was oh, so fun. That she was inspiring. And most of all - that she loved the Lord and showed them Jesus.
As you embark on this journey, test everything against God's word. Know truth. Believe truth. And enter this amazing adventure of motherhood with confidence that you walk in God's grace and he will guide your path.