(Note: This is a little something I wrote for my lovely, self-appointed/adopted niece, then shared at her baby shower this past summer. She is a dream and now also a Momma and I love her and her entire family dearly.)
For the Rest of What Comes Next…
I remember the first time I saw you, smiling and chatting up a woman who’d asked what your family had done over Christmas break. I was the age you are right now, and I’d walked into a brand new Bible Study group, knowing not a soul, and there you were, bubbling over with all the enthusiasm and charm of about ten Shirley Temples. All eleven years of you. And as you chatted on, two words in particular stuck out at me: one was the very same name my own Momma’s grandbabies call her and the other happened to be the very town I’d just moved away from. And I smiled in hope and knew God was pretty deep in the details. But, what I didn’t know then, was how your family would eventually become more like a family away from home for me… how you and your sisters would come to feel more like my own nieces. And how, now after these eighteen-ish years since, it’s not at all an exaggeration for me to say that watching the three of you grow up and into the beautiful, fun, caring, talented, God-seeking, and kindhearted humans each of you are, has truly been one of my greatest treasures.
But going back to the beginning, not too long after that first day, when I truthfully didn’t bat even one eye at your mom’s suggestion that you watch my own two young boys. All eleven years of you. And you gotta know I’ve batted many an eye at some of the things your Momma would end up talking me into over the years, so it just bears a mention. Because, even then, I saw you with your sisters and I could see your love and care for them, so I rested in that.
And eventually your name just became part of things around here. Your full name, by the way, and not any nicknames, as my guys will forever insist. Because whatever we needed watching, you agreed to watch… house, dogs, kids, and all. “Your house” was my house, and you “just let us live here,” as you always liked to say. And that is funny, yes, because your sense of humor is just another one of the incredible things about you. But it’s bigger and better than that, too, because who’d want someone keeping up with things in your place if that someone didn’t feel connected to what you loved in the same way you do? So I rested while you were here.
And I now see that this very connection is really what life’s all about. We’re connected. Forever. Each of you girls, your Mom, and me. And since we are connected, I wear the badge of adopted Aunt proudly, and I get to joint host this joyous occasion and also snag the floor for a bit because I feel bound to offer what I can: a few words on motherhood, plus maybe a little more on raising messy, magnificent boys and being married through it all. But mostly, I just hope you feel my heart behind all of this and know how honored I am to walk this life alongside you and how grateful I am that God was pleased to allow it. So, I will also be making a promise to you today. I promise to continue to support, pray, lend any help and hope, or just be an all-around sounding board whenever you need it. Oh, and babysitting your boy will happen. Rest assured of that!
Now, first things first. YOU are going to make a fantastic Momma! I’ve no doubt. And I don’t just know this because of how my own boys felt about you. I know it because of your heart for Jesus. So, just keep bringing your heart to meet with Jesus, and then laying both yours and baby’s own heart at His feet to nourish and heal and make whole and wholly His, and then rest there, because you know He is so worthy and wants only this for you both.
And while we’re on the subject of meeting with Jesus, these meet-ups are likely gonna change, both in duration and frequency. Now, I don’t have personal experience with this on the front end of things because, as you know, I only met Jesus after kids. However, I do have experience on the back-end, since the boys are grown and I now have all the time in the world. So, just know that while your time with Him may look different now, your seasons and your times were always planned and are still in God’s grace-filled hands. And while I’m sure you’ve been reading up on all the ways to find that balance in motherhood, trying to navigate what your new life will look like (and I’ve no doubt you’ll find your own groove) I want to make even more sure you know all the grace you’ll certainly receive in and throughout the entire journey. Plus, remember, prayer “without ceasing”, by its very definition, happens at all times… like during middle of the night feedings, bath times, walks, diaper changes, those gotta-get-this-baby-to-sleep-NOW car rides, or even cuddle time. With baby, I mean. I probably wouldn’t recommend praying during cuddle time with Dad, only due to distraction levels. But, you may and that’s cool, so pray while resting (or not resting) in all of it.
Speaking of Dad, y’all are walking into this new season of life together. And while I won’t say everything changes here, enough will change that sometimes it may feel like everything changed, so choose to embrace this change and be open to new expressions of intimacy and conversation and ideas of a good time. And, on that note, remember you’ll still get to have good times in general, but especially with Dad. You may struggle believing this after baby comes because, well, basically all your cells and electrical impulses and even the very fibers of your being will be shouting non-stop thoughts of baby, but if you just keep trying to remember who’s gonna be around long after baby leaves (talking about all relationships here, honestly), it helps tremendously, so rest in that, too.
And not to keep on about Dad, but here’s a little more about Dad. Just go ahead now and also begin to embrace the reality that y’all will not agree on everything when it comes to raising babies. I’m talking even about things you think he couldn’t have the least possible opinion about. Trust me when I say he’s gonna have one and he really should and that’s just a fact. And it’s probably even more so because you are having a boy and boys know boys. Mommas, however, wanna baby boys or make sweet, kind, and sensitive boys. But, Dads? Well, this is rarely their priority. So keep up the prayers, then trust Dad’s instincts here. Encourage them, even! Their relationship will mean the world to you one day and you’ll definitely wanna rest in that!
And about those instincts, please trust your own. This child is a gift from God to you and you’re gonna know instinctively how to love this sweet smelling bundle of everything that’s yummy and perfect. Well, minus the snot, full diapers, and spit up. Obviously none of that is yummy. And while you might not feel exactly instinctive in every given moment, know that whatever you choose to do will be alright in the end. From nursing to pacifiers to swaddling to scheduling to sicknesses to rocking, crying it out, talking it out, time-outs, potty training, and co-sleeping. Or not. In all of it, and beyond, your instincts will be your friend. Because remember, when you’re praying without ceasing, God is still guiding and even reserves the right to override you, usually making wrong decisions and course corrections abundantly clear. So follow your instincts, then rest in God’s Perfect Will.
More about that Perfect Will of God. You’ve seen this truth in action. You know firsthand how He gives and takes away. But, fortunately, you also know how God loves… with a jealous, compassionate, faithful, fiery, wholly, and yet, Holy and perfect love. We know there is nothing else that can even compare. And when I tell you today that you are gonna feel a type of this fierce, all-encompassing love for your son, you can understand it, but only up to a point, because while you’re bonding now as he grows inside you, it’s not complete. Yet. But then, BAM, it happens! And you just become all Momma-crazed and know you could never love another human this intensely. Until he gets a sibling. And then you can’t imagine how you ever lived before them or how you could ever try to without them. And in all this, you can easily become consumed with making everything perfect and safe for them… emotionally, physically, mentally, spiritually. Honestly, there are many areas – and errors – to spread around here. The pressure to provide the perfect experiences and opportunities… and a culture, both in the church and without, that shouts loud about all the shoulds and oughts. It can make your head spin. But worse, it can spin your life both out of control and out of God’s Will. So, focusing on the fact that your babe is a gift from God and therefore, so very loved by God because he is His very own creation, may help ease that burden of trying to attain perfect provision. Know, too, that God’s the only One with the perfect plan for him and that it’s only God that can love him perfectly – Only God Who can meet his every need, perfectly! And as much love as you will feel for this child, just keep reminding yourself to times it by a zillion, because that’s how much more love God has for him. Or, more like how perfect His love is for him. You know this, of course. But you’ll likely need a reminder over the years because, all too soon, you’ll realize your best efforts aren’t enough and that it’s simply impossible for you to love this human in the most personal and perfect way he’ll need to be loved. So just do the very best you can and leave God with the rest.
And getting even more personal here, let’s talk about the idea of perfect parenting. Because, there’s no such thing. Now, we all say we know this. Well, if we’re honest we say it. But deep down we just think we can. Or, at least we should. Then we become parents and get a bit of confirmation from our cherub angel because he’s not acting like those other fussy, unhappy babies. So we start feeling pretty confident that we’re doing a decent job and then maybe continue looking around at even fussier babes and then feel more confirmed that we’re definitely perfecting this parenting thing. Then, WHAM! Out of complete nowhere, we get smacked in the face by our own little cherub angel. Sometimes even literally smacked. And we panic and wonder where we went wrong and then try real hard to make it all right. And that’s where it can go so wrong. Because that’s when we’re most tempted to focus on their behavior. But we have to remember, we’re shepherding a heart to love Jesus in all this parenting business. A heart of a little, misbehavin’ sinner. A heart just like our own. But in complete transparency here, I did this all wrong, which is why I’m compelled to warn you about it. Frankly, I had no clue where to even begin with raising a child to love God while focusing on their heart. You probably have much more knowledge in this area. And since my focus was on their behavior, I feel I can speak from experience at where that can lead. So, simply stick to matters of the heart. Ask God for life verses to pray over both him and his heart. Then keep handing over his heart, over and over again, to His Heavenly Father to love and soften, and then find rest in the fact that God is faithful to complete what He begins. Even if it takes a lifetime.
And, finally, on lifetimes. This parenting business is the rest of your life. And honestly, there’s a chance it may take an entire lifetime to see much of the good fruit you hope and pray to see from all the seeds you will be sowing. I certainly pray this isn’t the case, but sometimes that’s just a hard fact. Either way, mothering will require plenty of patience and endurance. Especially those toddler and teen, and many of the in-between years! And it will also require loving when they become a bit harder to love, yet the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love, so keep loving hard anyway. I know you will, of course, and I also know you’re only at the beginning here, so why would I choose to warn or look so far ahead? Simply because I’ve found it’s helpful to keep the goal of a thing in view right from the start. Again, I got so lost in this. But, if you can remember early and often that the very purpose of parenting is to raise an infant human to grow up into an adult human… an adult that will actually go off and adult all by himself for the rest of his life, it may help when you’re in the trenches of his young life, battling hard all the guilt and doubt and questions and messes and so many opposing voices. Be encouraged though! You’ve only got about eighteen years to do all this hard work. Ha! And yet, you’ll have an entire lifetime to love him. And, while that love will change in its expression, it will never, ever change in its connection, so absolutely rest in that!
And then, Sweet Girl, just keep on resting. Rest in God. Rest in His Grace. Rest in His Mercy. Rest in His Perfect Plan and Great Love for you all. And finally, for the love of all that’s right in this broken and messed up world, always remember to close your eyes and rest when that baby does, because you’ll need it… For both his good and for the rest of what comes next!
Sweet Baby-To-Be, may you become all that you are meant to become. As your body is being perfectly knit together inside Mommy, may your heart also become perfectly formed into a heart that loves God both early and for an entire lifetime. May your mind, body, and soul always seek your Creator first, and the good of others, also for a lifetime. May you always know the fierce and unconditional love of your Mom and Dad, yet trust in the perfect love of your Heavenly Father, for all your days. And in all your ways, may you glorify and enjoy the Only One Who sees your heart and knows your heart and holds your heart, for all eternity. Amen.