Our church organized several ladies book studies over the fall. My group just finished reading Fit To Burst by Rachel Jankovic. I don’t follow much of Rachel’s stuff but I love her 2-book series on parenting young kids (Loving the Little Years is the first one). Her chapters are short and to the point but still leave much to be reflected upon. And her humor is fantastic. A lot of the discussion in the book isn’t new ideas. You can probably find dozens of blog posts and book chapters on the same topics. There are a couple of things I want to keep in mind as we enter into the newborn phase once again. Here is the first one. The rest will be coming soon in future blog posts.
Reminder #1: Give freely, Give Joyfully.
“In Christian circles there is constant talk about free salvation. It is free, thank God. But it is only free to us. God paid a great price for it. Jesus paid with His blood. It is free to us because someone else paid a great deal… We imitate Christ, and we do things that are hard, that cost us much, because we want our gifts to be free to others.” Fit To Burst, page 22
The Christian’s life is a call to selfless living in whatever season of life God has called us into. Willing to give up our life, time, and energy to serve another without expectation of return. As Christ did for us. While this is true for all of life, the giving of ourselves to raise young kids is a bit different than serving adults. With adults there is often a understanding of the sacrifice made or gratification of thanks given. However, young children have no concept of how much energy, emotion, and time you are pouring into their lives. They don’t understand how their total dependance affects us physically and emotionally. But this doesn’t change God’s command to me to give freely to them and pour out my life and energy for them, every day. Luke has said frequently that the first 6 months of an infants life isn’t about us. It’s about our family, and giving of ourselves to provide what they need. Christ willingly sacrificed for me to the point of death. I die to myself and sacrifice for my children over and over – often times to the point of my own exhaustion – because Christ did the same for me.
“Cheerfully embracing the mundane work in your life, diving into the challenges, working harder than you would think was possible at the little, at the trivial, at the boring – these are all ways to say, “Use me Lord; I am your servant.” Fit to Burst, pg 44
Willingly and with Joy. The past eight months has been fun. We haven’t changed a diaper in a long while, the girls are able to do simple things for themselves, their little chores are actually helpful, it’s easy to go places, we been able to sit through church services with minimal distractions, host a few parties, and Luke and I have enjoyed some fun getaways and projects together. It has been a welcome season of adequate rest and feeling like there were more than enough hours in the day to accomplish what we needed to do. It’s been easy to be joyful. But before this easy season was a hard season. The year after our second child was born was difficult for me. Life was 95% filled with basic survival tasks: food to eat, good hygiene, clean clothes, no mold in the bathrooms, infant needs, and potty training. Which was serving my family but seemed monotonous and boring for me. I like making gifts for birthdays, having lots of time to organize the girls club I do lead, working on occasional projects, or being able to take part in church outreach and service on a regular basis. Even when there was a bit of extra time, the energy to do more was gone. As we approach another year of having an infant around I’ve been both bracing myself and praying through how we can not only survive, but enjoy this next physically demanding season of life. At some point during a quiet time in the middle of that first year with two children I was impressed with the thought: This is not how it was meant to be. This struggle to survive, to provide for our basic needs is harder than it was created to be. Because of sin. You can laugh but it was a very freeing thought to me that laundry (that never ending task) in and of itself is a direct result of the fall. It is a part of my life solely because sin entered into the world. But that didn’t mean I couldn’t fight for joy in the mundane tasks. By fighting for joy as I cleaned up another potty training accident, walked the 3yr old through the 12th fit of the day with patience, played make believe with a tired brain, or used the evening hours with my husband to catch up on dishes (when we both just wanted to sit down) I was fighting the sin in my own heart. Sin that would seek it’s own comfort, desires, and pursuits. Because to die is to live in Christ and I wasn’t living for myself but to fulfill HIS calling and will for me right now: to be at home caring for my children. As the kids get older and more independent there will be seasons of life where God’s calling might extend once again to outside-the-home activities. But for this season that is not his will for me. Right now he has called Luke and I to spend the best part of our time and energy caring for, training, enjoying, and building relationships with the little people he has entrusted to our care.
What do I personally need to do to maintain this joy and attitude of freely giving?
Be renewed by prayer and scripture often. My joy is not from my circumstances but from my relationship with Christ and the fruit this relationship brings.
Weekly asking: God what is my purpose for this week? What are you calling me to focus on? How can I be living in the center of your will? Am I taking on more than you are calling me to do this week because I feel bored? Our paster gave a great message to the ladies in our church a couple months ago about not forgetting our first calling: to be a disciple of Christ. He made the comment that: “often times our area of concern is much greater than our actual responsibility.” I need to be seeking God’s directions as I plan out my weekly tasks so I don’t over-extend myself and commit to things or projects that will prevent me from giving adequate attention to my family.
And third, by continuing to pour out my time and energy in faith when it feels like I have nothing else to give. Chapter 6 in Fit to Burst is titled ‘Too Many Straws in My Milkshake’ and Rachel comments that “The demands for your attention and energy get suddenly loud and obnoxious when you feel like there isn’t anything left to give.” Like the sound a straw makes at the bottom of a milkshake. It’s easy to go into self-preservation mode at this point and start craving to be left alone. But God says pour in faith and I will “supply all your needs according to my great riches” (Phil 4:19).