I just laid our sleeping 14-month-old daughter in bed. I gently brushed her hair out of her face using two of my fingers, then turned off her little lamp and slipped out of her room, worn out, but with a full heart.
My husband and I didn’t expect another baby at this point in our lives, and we are treasuring every moment with her. Yes, even the sleepless nights, the blowout diapers, and the other various frustrations. There was a time that such a sentiment confused me…but I was a different person then.
I’ve reflected on many things over the last year. Several facets of the transitions stand out. Some beautifully, and some not so much. Our oldest will be 19 years old next month. At the end of last summer he left home, joined the Marines, and so began his next chapter with a bang. Simultaneously, I snuggled a little baby.
I also observed. Myself, mostly. And I reflected. Remembered. Made connections.
It’s a glorious adventure, parenthood. I love it.
As I remember my experiences as a first-time mom, while walking through experiences as a fourth-time mom after a long gap, two things continue to stand out to me.
1.) God has worked and is working to change me.
Alleluia and Amen!! Sometimes I tend to see primarily my weaknesses, failures, sinful tendencies, and areas begging for improvement. I desire so deeply to grow more Christlike and to live a life that’s pleasing to God – to really, truly, deeply, and actively love God and others. I see how far I still miss that mark every hour of every day. It’s helpful to look back occasionally at who I was before the Lord saved me, and at my character and life when I was a new Christian, about 17 years ago. From that perspective I can see how far God has brought me, praise Him for bringing me this far, and trust Him enthusiastically to complete the good work He started in me.
Nothing brings out the ugliness and sin of our hearts like difficulty. I think the tea metaphor illustrates this reality so well. You’ve probably heard it –
If I want a cup of Jasmine tea, I fill my infuser with the proper amount of tea leaves and place it in hot water. As it sits in the hot water, the flavor and color of the tea leaves seep out into the water. Now, if the brewed tea looks, smells, and tastes like chamomile tea, I shouldn’t blame the hot water. Sure, the hot water drew out chamomile smell, flavor, and color, and I wanted and expected the smell, flavor, and color of Jasmine. But it’s not the hot water’s fault. The hot water simply drew out what was inside the infuser. If I want a different flavor tea, then I need to change the tea that’s inside the infuser. The tea leaves are whatever type they are whether they’re in hot water or not. They are what they are. The hot water reveals more clearly what they already are in the first place.
Like hot water, difficulties draw out what is in our hearts, and reveal what smells, flavor, and color the proverbial tea inside us yields. If the result is putrid, I can’t blame the difficulties I face, and I must acknowledge that the putrid results came from my own heart, and run to Christ to bring Him the rottenness He graciously allowed me to see, and to ask Him to cleanse me and change the contents of my heart so when future difficulties come a different flavor will be revealed.
Having a baby in the house is one form of proverbial hot water. It’s challenging. It’s many lovely and pleasant things as well, but it’s challenging.
In light of all that, I’m overjoyed to share that my current baby challenges bring out an entirely different flavor from me than they did 18 years ago…or even 14 years ago when our third youngest was a baby and I juggled three under the age of 5.
I’m not always acutely aware of the difference. Often I just go through my day and handle whatever needs to be handled without giving this dynamic any thought…
But sometimes a particular challenge arises, and I see my current response, and a memory pops into my mind of what that challenge revealed in my heart in the past, and I’m undone before the Father, because He’s changed my heart so.
He promised to work, to sanctify me, and He is. He’s doing it! He’s changing my loves, my desires, my reactions, my understanding, my goals…everything. As much as I still need to learn, I’m wiser now than I ever imagined I could be, two decades ago. As much as I still struggle, I’m more content and joyful now than I ever imagined possible in this life.
I look back to my conversion and see a consistent history of God’s great faithfulness to me, and I once again raise a proverbial rock of remembrance commemorating that He has brought me safe this far, and will surely bring me safely home.
These points of remembrance are so encouraging and reassuring!
2.) I still have much to learn.
I’ve lost count of how many times someone has said that we “must be experts on parenting boys now” since we have three of them.
My reply to that usually acknowledges my delight in being a “boymom” as well as the reality of common threads and some helpful generalizations…but I’m always quick to add that if it were possible for three boys to be polar opposites, then our boys would fit that description. They are so different from each other in so many ways! Personality, preferences, interests, strengths, weaknesses, gifts, sinful tendencies, response to discipline and authority, learning style…you name it. We are never bored parenting and discipling them, that’s for sure. And it is an impossibility for us to be experts on raising male humans based on our limited experience. We’ve learned some things, sure, but we’re still pressing on with much more to learn.
Even so, I actually was silly enough to think that I was pretty much totally equipped to do the baby thing again. Ha! This sweet baby girl humbled me quickly. Yes, I know a lot more now than I did when the boys were babies. Yes, much of those lessons apply. But every baby is unique and brings his or her own challenges. There’s still a learning curve with some of it.
Not only that, but in the broader picture, which includes parenting along with the rest of life, I still constantly see how much more I need to learn. About what God has said about Himself, and people, and His church, and the family unit, and what we’re supposed to say and do and be and believe. The Christian life is about constantly going back to God’s Word looking for what God said about all these things, and more, trying to understand more clearly and to align our philosophies and hearts and lives more closely, by His grace. And the older I get, the more I realize I still have a long way to go.
Seeing what God has done compels me to look to Christ, and press on. He is faithful, and promises to be with me to the end.