Sunday, November 13, 2011

Thoughts for a friend approaching motherhood

My friend Kristen is expecting her first baby the week of Christmas - a daughter! I'm excited for her for so many reasons. I was asked to share a devotional thought at her baby shower yesterday, which was an honor, and this is what I shared. I think I've linked up to this first part before, which is a post written by Rachel Jankovic on the Desiring God blog... I tried to make it clear where her writing ends, and where the scripture verse and my own thoughts begin.

Congratulations, Kristen!
You are already an awesome mom, and your daughter will be so blessed to be raised by you. You have my prayers and loving support along the way.
Lots of love,

Motherhood Is a Calling (And Where Your Children Rank)

By Rachel Jankovic, originally posted HERE on July 14, 2011

A few years ago, when I just had four children and when the oldest was still three, I loaded them all up to go on a walk. After the final sippy cup had found a place and we were ready to go, my two-year-old turned to me and said, “Wow! You have your hands full!”

She could have just as well said, “Don’t you know what causes that?” or “Are they all yours?!”

Everywhere you go, people want to talk about your children. Why you shouldn’t have had them, how you could have prevented them, and why they would never do what you have done. They want to make sure you know that you won’t be smiling anymore when they are teenagers. All this at the grocery store, in line, while your children listen.

A Rock-Bottom Job?

The truth is that years ago, before this generation of mothers was even born, our society decided where children rank in the list of important things. When abortion was legalized, we wrote it into law.

Children rank way below college. Below world travel for sure. Below the ability to go out at night at your leisure. Below honing your body at the gym. Below any job you may have or hope to get. In fact, children rate below your desire to sit around and pick your toes, if that is what you want to do. Below everything. Children are the last thing you should ever spend your time doing.

If you grew up in this culture, it is very hard to get a biblical perspective on motherhood, to think like a free Christian woman about your life, your children. How much have we listened to partial truths and half lies? Do we believe that we want children because there is some biological urge, or the phantom “baby itch”? Are we really in this because of cute little clothes and photo opportunities? Is motherhood a rock-bottom job for those who can’t do more, or those who are satisfied with drudgery? If so, what were we thinking?

It's Not a Hobby

Motherhood is not a hobby, it is a calling. You do not collect children because you find them cuter than stamps. It is not something to do if you can squeeze the time in. It is what God gave you time for.

Christian mothers carry their children in hostile territory. When you are in public with them, you are standing with, and defending, the objects of cultural dislike. You are publicly testifying that you value what God values, and that you refuse to value what the world values. You stand with the defenseless and in front of the needy. You represent everything that our culture hates, because you represent laying down your life for another—and laying down your life for another represents the gospel.

Our culture is simply afraid of death. Laying down your own life, in any way, is terrifying. Strangely, it is that fear that drives the abortion industry: fear that your dreams will die, that your future will die, that your freedom will die—and trying to escape that death by running into the arms of death.

Run to the Cross

But a Christian should have a different paradigm. We should run to to the cross. To death. So lay down your hopes. Lay down your future. Lay down your petty annoyances. Lay down your desire to be recognized. Lay down your fussiness at your children. Lay down your perfectly clean house. Lay down your grievances about the life you are living. Lay down the imaginary life you could have had by yourself. Let it go.

Death to yourself is not the end of the story. We, of all people, ought to know what follows death. The Christian life is resurrection life, life that cannot be contained by death, the kind of life that is only possible when you have been to the cross and back.

The Bible is clear about the value of children. Jesus loved them, and we are commanded to love them, to bring them up in the nurture of the Lord. We are to imitate God and take pleasure in our children.

The Question Is How

The question here is not whether you are representing the gospel, it is how you are representing it. Have you given your life to your children resentfully? Do you tally every thing you do for them like a loan shark tallies debts? Or do you give them life the way God gave it to us—freely?

It isn’t enough to pretend. You might fool a few people. That person in line at the store might believe you when you plaster on a fake smile, but your children won’t. They know exactly where they stand with you. They know the things that you rate above them. They know everything you resent and hold against them. They know that you faked a cheerful answer to that lady, only to whisper threats or bark at them in the car.

Children know the difference between a mother who is saving face to a stranger and a mother who defends their life and their worth with her smile, her love, and her absolute loyalty.

Hands Full of Good Things

When my little girl told me, “Your hands are full!” I was so thankful that she already knew what my answer would be. It was the same one that I always gave: “Yes they are—full of good things!”

Live the gospel in the things that no one sees. Sacrifice for your children in places that only they will know about. Put their value ahead of yours. Grow them up in the clean air of gospel living. Your testimony to the gospel in the little details of your life is more valuable to them than you can imagine. If you tell them the gospel, but live to yourself, they will never believe it. Give your life for theirs every day, joyfully. Lay down pettiness. Lay down fussiness. Lay down resentment about the dishes, about the laundry, about how no one knows how hard you work.

Stop clinging to yourself and cling to the cross. There is more joy and more life and more laughter on the other side of death than you can possibly carry alone.


Philippians 2:3-11
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death - even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.


My own thoughts:

"Kristen - We're all here today to celebrate your daughter that is about to be born, but also to celebrate and encourage you. What you are about to experience is, in my mind, the most incredible thing that will bring you so much more joy and fulfillment than you could have ever imagined it would. There is no comparison. As cliche as it sounds, you will look at your daughter the day she is born (and every day afterwards) and be so filled with love you'll think "My heart is going to explode".

There is a difficult side to motherhood that we don't talk about as much - and like the devotional mentioned, it is the laying down of our own lives. Motherhood is painful. Sometimes shockingly so. Like anything else in life, we have hopes and dreams even before the baby is born for the way things will go, for what they will do and who they will be. Every day that any of us is a mother, we are learning how to lay down our lives. Thankfully, pregnancy prepares us somewhat for this - we give ourselves completely to our baby through our body as it grows in size and changes for the sake of keeping our baby protected and nourished. It's a beautiful, wonderful process but it is also uncomfortable and at times, downright painful. And there's nothing you can do about it. I remember clearly during each of my pregnancies feeling a sense of panic - I could not get comfortable in bed or I could not catch my breath and I suddenly wanted the baby OUT! NOW! The more I fought against the pregnancy in those moments, the worse off I was.

We all have the natural inclination to fight against anything that causes us pain or discomfort. But can I encourage you today to prepare yourself to respond in humble submission? I have found that it is less painful. When I lay my expectations down, my own hopes and dreams and desires, I am able to embrace what I have been given and the way things actually are. It enables me to live in the present with my children - to love and appreciate everything about them as wonderful works of God's own hands.

Your daughter might not look the way you imagined she would look (when Robbie was born the first thing out of my mouth when I saw him was, "He doesn't look like my son! I MEAN, I LOVE HIM!".) She may not have the same abilities and gifts that God gave to you or to Eric, for that matter. God's plan for her life might be unrecognizable to you, and might take a shape that makes you uncomfortable. I would challenge you now to lay everything at His feet, the altar of sacrifice that you will return to often as you raise her.

Becoming a mother is truly the most wonderful thing I have ever experienced. It has drawn me closer to the Lord than I thought was possible. Even the most terrifying moments that I have walked through because I am a mom - like putting my firstborn into the hands of a surgeon when he was 3 weeks old, or holding my daughter as she had a seizure and after choking, turned blue and went limp in my arms - these are moments that I know were planned out by God before the creation of the world, intended to draw me closer to himself and make me more like him. In the same way, every day you are about to experience as a mom has been ordained by God and is familiar to Him. Allow that to bring you peace and comfort when things are difficult, painful, or disappointing. And I pray that it always deepens your love for the Lord, your joy in Him, and gives you reason to hope.

We cannot wait to meet your daughter and pray every blessing down on your family!"


The Samsons said...

beautiful devotional and thoughts, ashley! thanks for sharing.

Jennifer said...

beautiful, absolutely beautiful! i wish i had been there to hear you read it. thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing this. i really loved the article and your thoughts. it's all so true! i need to be reminded of all of it -- the fact that there is purpose and meaning (more than i could ever imagine) in motherhood, that i have a huge responsibility to my kids, that i need to be laying down my life for them each and every day, etc. thank you for this strong reminder and refocus -- something i seem to be needing often these days. love you! you're such a wonderful example of an incredible mom!